I have said previously that one of the Gratifying Pleasures which accompanies the job of Chairman is that of extending formal and lasting recognition to individuals who, by their efforts and signal contributions, have merited such a step. It is interesting to note how often such things run in families – in some cases, they practically gallop. Sally Osbourne and David Larrick, Nancy and Bill Burdine, Bev and Roy Paro, and Janice and Ron Dallas are all listed on the plaque gracing these walls.

Donna Roessler joins this select company today, and with her sister Andrea becomes the latest of these familial parings with which we have been so blessed. Over the course of her career with the Savoyards, Donna has filled with distinction most of the management and many of the tech roles which are so essential to making these productions possible at this level. She started as a teenager with fellow members of the Methodist Youth Group, helping to paint sets for Princess Ida, and bit by bit became more involved in theatrical activities over the following years. It was a gradual progression. 1973 saw her venture onstage for the first time for The Pirates of Penzance, but she managed to get through college without getting pulled in too deeply. Occasional chorus appearances over the next ten years satisfied her theatrical longings, such as they were. She did a stint on makeup for a Framingham State production of Grease, but beyond that managed to have a fairly normal life until the mid-90’s.

Donna began to get more deeply involved in the work required to stage these large productions in 1995 with costume work for The Mikado. Although she continued to make on-stage appearances, that never seemed to be the hook for her (as it is for some we could mention ...). Rather, Donna seemed to relish the variety of tasks needed behind the scenes. She continued to expand her costuming responsibilities, moving from support and construction into design. By the time I returned to the company in 1999 after a brief absence, she had cemented herself into position as a key leader in our activities. She served several terms on the Board of Trustees, at one point serving as both Treasurer and as Chairman. This is what it is to have two capacities ... In 2000, in her capacity as Chairman Donna talked me into taking on the job of Producer for Ruddigore, a feat of inspired recruiting for which I’ve still not entirely forgiven her. She was supportive of my many shortcomings, and her example encouraged me to look beyond the stage for other areas of contribution to our efforts, and for new levels of satisfaction.

Donna was frequently the holder of numerous roles and responsibilities, any one of which would have been a quite sufficient and valued contribution to our work. This multi-tasking reached its zenith in 2001. For that year's run of The Gondoliers, Donna served as Producer, Co-Costume Designer, Costume Construction Chief, and Treasurer of the Board of Trustees. Oh, and also appeared on stage in the specially created role of Don Alhambra’s aide. On she went to the summer production of Blithe Spirit (Costumer, House Manager, Set painting and drapery construction), and then into our 40th anniversary as Co-producer, House Manager, Costumer and chorus. And she just kept going ... and going ... For 2002 and The Sorcerer, she was Producer, Publicity Chief, Printer Liaison, Costume Construction Co-chief, and Treasurer. And in truth, I could keep going, but we have another show to get in tonight.

It was in Fall 2003 that Donna proposed, and co-created with her sister and fellow YR Andrea the annual Fall Craft Fair. For nine years the two of them organized and ran these events, which grew in scope from a single room to the point where the event overflowed the church building, and required additional outdoor booths. These events gave increased visibility to The Sudbury Savoyards, were enormous fun, and most importantly allowed us to increase our contribution to UMCOR by many thousands of dollars.

For above all, Donna has consistently demonstrated the continued commitment to our overall goal of fighting hunger while achieving artistic excellence in our productions. During her time on the board she never lost sight of why we do these things. And in the years since, she has continued to step forward when there was a need, and to be the example of unstinting effort and service.

As is the case with most of us, life moves on and we move with it. Other interests arise and demand of us out time and work, and when the time is right for us to take on those tasks, hopefully we know it. Donna has, in recent years, sought new challenges and brought that same dedication and energy to another worthy charitable cause, about which I’ll invite her to make a plug if she wishes. When I informed her that she was being honored this year, she seemed just a bit surprised, commenting that she had taken a step back from the level of active participation which she sustained for over ten years. However, this recognition has never been based on the answer to the question "What have you done for us lately?". The contributions made by Donna amply meet the criteria of "Extraordinary service in support of the mission of the Sudbury Savoyards." She has been, and remains an example to us all of that degree of service and dedication which so distinguish The Sudbury Savoyards at our best. Donna, it is my honor, privilege and great delight to present you to The Sudbury Savoyards as a Yeoman of Regard.

Dennis O’Brien
The Sudbury Savoyards Board of Trustees

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