Saturday, May 20, 2006 @ at noon at Alumni Hall was the retirement tribute for Dr. Vernell Lillie.

This was a star-studded event in which everyone came out to celebrate and honor Dr. Lillie's achievements. Lillie received proclamations from Governor Ed Rendell, Senator Jim Ferlo, Congressman, Mike Doyle, State Representative Jake Wheatley, Councilman Twanda Carlisle, and Councilwoman Brenda Frazier.

There were theatrical presentations, poems, remarks, video and music presentations by Clifford Sykes, Rudyard Crichlow, Tiffany Ellis Butts, Dr. Marta Effinger-Crichlow, Jamehl Lillie-Holland, Dean N. John Cooper, Dean Richard Howe, Billy Harper, Lou Ransom, Chawley Williams, Sala Udin, Ben Cain, Jr., Dr. Jerome Taylor, Woodie King, Linda Hunt, Dr. Dennis Brutus, Dr. Wilma Smith, Dr. Jack Daniel, Dr. Ruth Simmons, Alvin McCray, Renee Berry-Mack, Oliver Byrd, Vanessa German, Nathan James, Dr. Marsha Lillie-Blanton, Charisse Lillie, Esq., Debbie Starling-Pollard and closing remarks by Dr. Vernell A. Lillie.

Brotha Ash Productions congratulates you Dr. Lillie on your retirement and achievements. I am grateful to have had you as my teacher and friend at the University of Pittsburgh in Africana Studies. You made us think deeper about the African Diaspora and many things pertaining to theatre, movies, and life in general. You are a great treasure and have touched many lives. We will take what you gave us and pass it on to others.



Born in Texas to Walter Watson and Lillie Mae Watson, Vernell Lillie began her professional career as a speech and drama teacher at E.O. Worthing High School in Houston, Texas. She later transferred to Phyllis Wheatley High School, where she taught speech and drama, and also directed and produced plays through the Wheatley Stagecrafters. She taught in the Houston Independent School District for nineteen years. Dr. Lillie has been on the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh since 1972, where she is now retiring from the position of associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies.

Vernell Lillie is founder and artistic director of Kuntu Repertory Theatre, which celebrates its 30th season this year. Kuntu has performed locally and nationally for major universities and the American Theatre Association, and internationally for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South America. Some of Dr. Lillie's directing credits include: The Buffalo Soldiers Plus One, She'll Find Her Way Home, Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze, Ashes to Africa, Whispers Want to Holler, Mahalia Jackson: Standing On Holy Ground, The Crawford Grill Presents Billie Holiday, Zora: The Dark Town Strutter, Papa's Blues, Over Forty, Little Willie Armstrong Jones, Two Can Play, Blues for an Alabama Sky, and Among the Best: Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Grays.

Dr. Lillie was honored at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) with the 2003 Career Achievement in Education Award as well as a Career Award for Excellence from the Black Theatre Network. At the National Black Theatre Festival and the Black Theatre Network conference, members of Kuntu along with Vernell Lillie conducted workshops with Vivian Reed and Malaya Rucker for young performers and participated in six staged readings of new works. In September 2004, Dr. Lillie received the Demonstrating the Faith Award from the Eta Creative Arts foundation in Chicago, Illinois. Each year Dr. Lillie is honored and presented with awards for her tireless efforts; her creative expression of the arts; her work with seniors, young people and the community using psychodrama; and for her activism as it relates to education and well-being of the African American culture. Dr. Lillie has written and directed over 150 plays and collages in her career and has launched the careers of several artists. She received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 at the National Black Theatre Festival.

Dr. Lillie holds both the Doctor and Master of Arts degrees in English from Carnegie Mellon University, specializing in training teachers who train teachers. She has a Bachelor of Arts degrees in Speech and Drama from Dillard University and completed graduate studies in Education and English at Texas Southern University. In 2005, Dr. Lillie received an honorary doctorate from Seton Hill University.