Friends, family members and colleagues of Veronica Lally Kehoe (FCLC ’02) gathered on Feb. 12 at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus to dedicate a theatre named in her honor.
The Veronica Lally Kehoe Studio Theatre was made possible as part of a $2 million gift from her husband, John P. Kehoe (FCLC ’85, FCRH ’60). The ceremony, held at the Center Gallery, was marked by a wellspring of warmth for Lally Kehoe, a theatre patron who died in April 2007 after a two-year illness.
Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham, remarked that the busy Lowenstein Center was a fitting place for the dedication.
“There are six schools coming and going on the outskirts of this gathering,” Father McShane said. “There are stories being told. There are secrets being shared. There’s gossip that’s being spread. And this is where we gather to remember and to honor Veronica—at the intersection of life and art.”
Although John Kehoe did not speak at the dedication, Lally Kehoe’s daughter, Allise Dickson (FCLC ’95), shared some fond reminiscences of her mother.
She remembered how Lally Kehoe, a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and founder of the nonprofit Gypsy Road Theater Company, would make up songs and games with her. She encouraged her daughter to be spontaneous, sometimes illustrating her point by breaking into dance on subway platforms.
“My mom loved the children in her life. She saw them as a pure form of creative expression,” Dickson said. “She fostered their imagination and encouraged them to fully express themselves through whimsy and play, and we can never have too much of that.”
The venue named after her is, in every sense of the word, state of the art, said Matthew Maguire, head of Fordham Theatre. Once the location of Fordham’s Black Box Studio Theatre, the space has been transformed.
In addition to stadium-style seating with new accommodations for the handicapped, top-of-the-line soundproofing in the walls and ceiling has all but eliminated background noise from a nearby machinery room.
An arched Venetian plaster façade has replaced a nondescript hallway door, storage space has been added under the seats, and lighting and sound systems all have been upgraded.
Maguire also recalled the time he spent with Lally Kehoe, with whom he worked closely while she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in religious studies and art history. From the beginning, her mission was to help young artists, he said, and there was no more concrete way to do that than to build them their own theatre.
“Veronica was a model of how to be in the theatre and in the world. I was inspired by her optimism and her courage. She had such an open and youthful spirit,” Maguire said. “It’s my sincere belief that Veronica has infused this theatre. Everyone who makes art and watches it in the theatre will be blessed by her spirit. Thank you Jack, for this deep and precious gift.”