Scene & Heard: Leslie Shepard tribute

Rhea Feikin and Leslie Shepard attended the Baltimore School of the Arts' tribute to Shepard. "An Alumni & Friends Tribute to Leslie Shepard" may have been all about saying goodbye to the retiring director of the Baltimore School for the Arts. But in classic Shepard fashion, Shepard herself sidestepped taking center stage. In a show in which current and past BSA students performed in tribute to the woman who had been with the school since its 1979 beginning — and its director since 2001 — Shepard did not step onto the stage, preferring to stay in the middle of the audience. At the party afterward, Shepard graciously made her way through the crowd, humbly accepting the continuing kudos coming her direction. And there were many to be had. "Leslie is a spectacular star. [She's championed] many many young people who are now stars," said Mark Joseph, BSA board chair. "I thought the program was just extraordinary. You could see everyone just adores her. She's been an absolutely extraordinary leader. There was so much warmth," added his wife, Pat Joseph. "What I loved about tonight — whoever produced this show — they knew exactly who she is," said Terry Morganthaler, a school supporter who plays one of the parents in the BSA annual production of "The Nutcracker" ballet. "This was a show designed for Leslie," added Morganthaler's husband, Patrick Kerins, New Enterprise Associates general partner. "Leslie's warmth you see reflected back from the kids, the performers," said Jane Rodbell, retired social worker, there with husband, Stan Rodbell, Academy Financial certified financial planner/attorney. "It was the most wonderful teary evening I've had in a long time. It was glorious," said Shepard's close friend Rhea Feikin, MPT on-air personality. "It was so moving. It was so good to have the alumni back," said Michele Whelley, Central Maryland Transportation Alliance president/CEO, there with her daughter Katie Whelley, University of Maryland graduate. "Leslie is the biggest cheerleader you can have in your corner. She makes every student feel as if they're her favorite student," said one of those alumni, actress Tracie Thoms, "Cold Case" star. "I'm so proud of her. She took on all these roles effortlessly. She's a classy lady," said another of the evening's performers, cellist Troy Kenneth Stuart, 1985 BSA graduate. "The depth of her commitment to this school, the commitment to shaping lives here; it shapes the rest of your life. Many of us wouldn't be the people we are today if it weren't for our years at [BSA]," said Beth Bell, a member of the second BSA graduating class, in 1983, owner of Beth Bell Consulting. "Leslie has been indefatigable. She's tireless and maintained [the school's] mission," said Tom Hall, Baltimore Choral Arts Society music director, there with his wife, Linell Smith, Johns Hopkins Health System senior writer. "I chaired the search committee that appointed her. She made it happen," said Sally Michel, past BSA board chair. "The best decision I ever made was convincing David to hire her," said Fred Lazarus, Maryland Institute College of Art president, referring to the school's founding director, David Simon. "It's bittersweet. It's wonderful to see how many people care about her and to see all the talent onstage and she's not going to be there, " said Debra Rubino, OSI director of strategic communications. She had come with photographer husband Joe Rubino, who had produced the evening's video portions of the show. "It just feels so warm. This school is really a family. That's what it's all about," said Nanny Warren, BSA director of special projects. While everyone else couldn't say enough about the exiting director, the woman herself kept her own comments to a minimum — as Shepard tried, once again, to deflect the spotlight. "This is unbelievable. It was a beautiful night. And kind of overwhelming," she said. -- Sloane Brown
Photo by Colby Ware, Special to The Baltimore Sun
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