If you are a fine arts major, or a student interested in the fine arts, you have without a doubt spent significant time in the Royce Hall for the Performing Arts on the Lake Erie College campus—maybe at an exhibition, for a theatre or dance performance, or just in one of the many studios and classrooms dedicated to the fine arts. You may not, however, know just how much the person whose name is at the entrance has contributed not only to the fine arts at LEC, but to the arts in general.
Royce Hall was named after an alumna of the College, Deborah Goodrich Royce, class of 1980—one of LEC’s most stand-out graduates who embodies the spirit of strength and empowerment of women in the fine arts. Originally from the Detroit, Mich. area, Deborah graduated from Lake Erie with a major in modern foreign languages, concentrations in French and Italian, and a minor in dance. What brought her to LEC, however, was a desire to travel.
"At the time and place I grew up, it was not as common as today to travel abroad as a young child,” Deborah said. Then, during her college search process, she found out about Lake Erie’s travel abroad programs. "I had never been to Europe, and it was a dream for me. LEC just sounded ideal.” Once on campus, her dream of traveling to the old continent quickly came true. "I did not go to one of the universities where large groups of LEC students were,” she said. "I veered off and went to Paris, where I studied at Institut Catholique [de Paris].”
While at Lake Erie, Deborah was also very involved with the fine arts program, even though her major was in the languages. "I danced seriously, so [I] was always performing in the dance concerts,” she said. "Additionally, I did a fair amount of acting and was involved with the theatre productions.”
Her real commitment to the arts, however, began after her graduation. She began her career as an actress in film and television, which continued for over a decade. "My first job was playing a villainess on the soap opera ‘All My Children’,” she said. "My character was the sister of the star of the show, Erica Kane, and had the crazy name of Silver Kane.”
After "All My Children” Deborah continued her career in a number of nighttime TV shows—including roles on "21 Jump Street,” "Beverly Hills 90201,” "St. Elsewhere,” "The A-Team” and "Three is a Crowd.” She also starred in a number of miniseries, movies-of-the-week and a few feature films, and served as a story editor at Miramax Films.
Currently Deborah resides in Greenwich, Conn., just outside of New York City, with her husband, and together they continue to serve the fine arts community. They are the co-founders of the historic Avon Theater Film Center in Stamford, Conn., on which they also did a lot of restoration work. "We run [The Avon Cinema] as a not-for-profit independent theater,” she said. "That means we show non-mainstream films, documentaries, foreign films, etc. We have guest speakers and special events, as well.”
Apart from the theater, the couple have also restored several buildings in Tannersville, N.Y, a small town in the Catskill Mountains, and in Watch Hill, R.I., as a part of local revitalization projects. "[We] are involved in many ‘Main Street’ restoration projects,” she said. "The goal is to bring entrepreneurs and small business owners back to Main Street and to help revitalize small towns.” Deborah serves on the Boards of Literacy Volunteers of Stamford/Greenwich, where she also teaches writing to adult English-as-a-second-language students, and the YWCA of Greenwich Center in Stamford, Conn.
Throughout it all, Deborah credits Lake Erie with fueling her passion for the arts. "LEC gave me the foundation in the liberal and fine arts that feeds my interest in what I am doing today,” she said. "I have such fond memories of being in the fine arts building,” she added, "whether there for a dance class, a play rehearsal, or just doing homework in that wonderful, open lobby.”
An active alumna of the institution who always encourages other alumni and friends to get actively involved with Lake Erie, Deborah also has some words for our current students. "You are in a special place. Enjoy the gorgeous campus and take advantage of every opportunity.” She most certainly has done so.