I wrote this about a woman who is a scholarship donor at my college.
A Gift of The Arts
Looking back on the day that I met Ruth Rovner, I recall a diminutive lady with the most engaging smile I had ever seen. At the time of our meeting, she was sandwiched between two of her relatives and I remember thinking they were rich white folks that wanted a Kodak moment with poor students at the Community College of Philadelphia. However, at the meet and greet that was given so that we could thank our benefactors for the generous donations they had made through the college's scholarship program, I quickly realized that Prof. Rovner was not just there for a Kodak moment.
There were four of us students who had won the Ruth Rovner scholarship, which is awarded to students who have overcome difficulties to achieve their goals and are high achievers. I was so stoked when I got the e-mail saying I had won, but I had no idea we would ever meet our donors. Not only did Prof. Rovner meet and greet us, she wanted our phone numbers, email addresses, and she spoke extensively to each of us. She wanted to know in detail what we planned to do with our English degree, and amazingly she was able to bring up details about each of us that were in the essays that we submitted in order to qualify for her scholarship. My heart warmed to this woman in a way that only happens with few people I meet. I knew then that I had met a friend for life, and I was not wrong in my thinking.
About two months after the luncheon, my phone rang and it was Prof. Rovner. She was calling to ask me if I would like to attend a play in Center City Philadelphia entitled, "Doubt". I was thrilled at the invitation and we planned to meet for dinner before the show. Prof. Rovner is a feature writer for a North-East based newspaper where she submits articles based on the Arts. Because of her outstanding writing she gets press kits when she attends plays, and when she received hers that night at the ticket office for "Doubt", she handed it to me. I had never seen one before, and instantly fell in love with the prospect of writing some of these myself one day. Not only that, we had front row seats, right up on the action. I had never seen a play so up close and personal before. Sure, I had worked backstage at school on plays, but this professional exposure to the actors faces and emotions had be mesmerized.
After the show we laughed and talked with the actors in the lobby, and chatted about the play all the way to my car. As I drove her home to her apartment in Center City, she and I talked of plays, writing, and about what I was doing with my writing in school. That night I had mentioned to her that my English professors were encouraging me to take up Shakespeare classes soon, and I sort of grumbled to them that I didn't understand the old English language, and that I thought it would be a hard class to pass. We said our good-nights and I gave her a big hug and thank you for dinner and the show, which she once again absorbed the full price of.
The winter break came and went, and I hadn't heard from Prof. Rovner since the evening we spent at the theater, but it seems as soon as I thought of her, she was calling my phone inviting me to see "Macbeth" at the Arden Theater. My mouth fell to the floor as I sat studying in the hallway of the Bonnell building after my Public Speaking class. I had never seen Shakespeare on stage. I exclaimed to Prof. Rovner how exciting that would be, and relayed to her that I had to perform a monologue from a Shakespearean play this semester for my Voice and Articulation class. We made arrangements to meet again for dinner before the show, and needless to say it was amazing! We were in the front again! We were so close that when blood gushed out of the actors I saw it skeet across the stage. And like before, Prof. Rovner handed me her press release.
On my way home that night, I felt blessed to have such a wonderful person in my life. I haven't had many people in my life that have taken the time and effort to actually share their precious time with me and ask about my thoughts, and show concern about my future, like Prof. Rovner. However, I made her promise that she would let me treat her sometimes. She agreed.
Weeks passed and in the middle of the semester Prof. Rovner called asking me if I wanted to see "Hamlet" at the Wilma Theater on Broad St. She will never know that I cried after I accepted her invitation. I had chosen the "To be or not to be..." speech from "Hamlet" for my monologue assignment, and had been practicing non-stop. The night of the play she kept her word and let me buy her coffee at Starbucks before the show, and we sat on the front row of the Wilma Theater. I will never forget that I was privy to see the first black woman to perform Hamlet; I will never forget how I cried as I mouthed the words to that speech, "To be, or not to be..."; I will never forget how the Ghost of Hamlet's father stood right over us when he did his monologue, and how the force of his acting sent spittle from his mouth to our faces!
Prof. Ruth Rovner has given me a gift that is priceless. Her friendship. But, along with that friendship she has inspired me to write about what I see on stage, what I feel about what I see on stage, but most importantly she has inspired me to believe and not doubt. Oh, and by the way, I aced the monologue!