Dr. Bob Willenbrink, currently head of the department of theatre and dance at Missouri State University in Springfield, has been named the founding dean of the School of Fine Arts at Missouri Western State University.
“Dr. Willenbrink has the combination of creative and administrative experience that I hoped we could find when we began the search for a founding dean of the School of Fine Arts,” said Dr. Robert Vartabedian, Missouri Western’s president.
“I am confident he will provide outstanding leadership for this new chapter in the history of the arts at Missouri Western.”
“Being in on the ground floor of Missouri Western’s School of Fine Arts, especially with the support the arts enjoy here, is very appealing,” said Dr. Willenbrink. “The quality of the faculty and the quality of work that I saw when I visited campus was really inspiring. This is the perfect incubator for the promotion and development of the arts.”
With about 25 full-time faculty members and nearly 500 students, the School of Fine Arts at Missouri Western offers a range of undergraduate programs in art, music, theatre, cinema and dance, including a Master of Applied Arts program in Digital Arts. Enrollment in the fine arts programs has risen significantly in the last three years, up 60 percent in theatre and cinema and 20 percent in art and music.
“By any measure, the arts are thriving at Missouri Western,” said Dr. Jeanne Daffron, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “Whether you look at growing enrollment, the quality of work produced by our students and faculty, rising attendance at performances and exhibitions, or community support through the 250 members of the Missouri Western Arts Society, it’s clear that there’s a lot of momentum in the arts programs. The creation of the School of Fine Arts is an important next step in the continued evolution of Missouri Western, and I believe Dr. Willenbrink is the right person to chart a vision for this new endeavor.”
Dr. Willenbrink has been a professor and department head at Missouri State since 2009. In addition to the normal academic duties, he has served as producer of Tent Theatre, a professional summer theatre company in Springfield.
Previously, he was professor and chair of the department of communication and theatre at Morehead State University from 2002 to 2009, including five years as the W. Paul and Lucille Caudill Little Endowed Chair of Theatre. He also served two years as interim director of Morehead’s George M. Luckey Honors College.
Dr. Willenbrink was director of theatre and professor in the department of speech, theatre and mass communication at University of Central Arkansas from 1986 to 2002, and served nine years as the department chair. While there, he founded and directed A.C.T.S., a theatre company for artists with disabilities and challenges, and the Youth Theatre of Central Arkansas, a theatre program for youth ages 8 to 18. He was also director of Arc of Arkansas Performance Institute for Disabled Artists from 2000 to 2004.
Dr. Willenbrink began his academic career as assistant professor and head of theatre at Hazard Community College in Hazard, Ky., from 1978-1983. He was founder and producer of the Hazard Community Summer Playhouse.