When Allan Whitehead, C’78, thought about a request from Sewanee to fund a Cornerstone Scholarship, he found a project to which he could relate. “I credit Sewanee with changing my life. I know a lot of people have that experience, but it’s especially true for me. I was a lower middle class guy living in a mobile home. My scholarship made it possible for me to attend Sewanee, where I made great friends, had terrific experiences, and both a social and an academic education. Sewanee had a profound impact on me and totally changed me.”
Whitehead grew up with a father in the U.S. Air Force, and by the time he was in seventh grade, he had lived in Alaska, California, Idaho, D.C., and Florida. During his high school years, a friend introduced him to Sewanee. “I didn’t know a lot about colleges,” he says, “but a friend and I went on a road trip together for college visits, and when I saw the Sewanee campus, I knew it was the place for me.”
An excellent student, Whitehead was also active in theatre. “My most distinct memory was when we put on Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night. I played the role of the father and was on stage basically all four hours of the play. It was on Spring Party Weekend and for the first three shows, there were five or six people in the audience. But on Sunday, the house was packed.”
A few years ago, Whitehead rekindled his love for the theatre by studying with the Truthful Acting Studios in Orlando. Together with friends he made at that conservatory program, Whitehead is launching a new venture, a professional theatre in the Edgewood community near Orlando called. “We’re doing great work that I would stack up against anyone,” says Whitehead. Theatre on the Edge is in its third season, and Whitehead, himself, is performing in an upcoming production of The Goat, by Edward Albee.
During the day, Whitehead is an attorney, specializing in civil trial work, and he sees the connection between that work and his avocation in the theatre. “At Truthful Acting, we studied the Meisner method, a tenet of which is that to be a better actor, you need to be a better human being. You really have to make connections with the scene. You have to notice what is going on. These are good attributes for an attorney. It’s also a matter of teamwork: In theatre you work with others to put together a story, and litigation works the very same way.”
At Sewanee, Whitehead laid some important cornerstones of his own, through academic study and work in the theatre. But he also made abiding connections—the social education he found important. “This year I got a Christmas card from an old Sewanee friend, Kitty Stockell Bannon [C’80],” he says. “After I graduated, I joined the Navy, and Catherine came to my commissioning in 1979. In her Christmas card, she included some photographs she had taken back then, which I guess she had stumbled across.
“Sewanee friendships are solid and long-lasting. It’s almost like we never left.”