Western Theatre Professor Don Lillie passed away on Thursday, Feb. 26, in his home.
Lillie was a professor in the Theatre, Cinema and Dance department for over 20 years. He taught introduction to theater, stage combat, historical fencing and other theater-related classes.
He was an Army veteran of the Vietnam War and often talked about the honor and respect that veterans deserve.
Lillie was known for his Baja hoodie, his colloquialisms, his wisdom and, most of all, the joy that he carried as he worked.
Founding Dean of the School of Fine Arts Bob Willenbrink not only worked with Lillie, but was friends with him for around 40 years.
“One of the things that I knew about him was that he had the same sense of humor, the same love of other people and the same love of theater and the performing arts his whole life,” Willenbrink said.
Lillie and Willenbrink attended Moorhead State University in Moorhead, Kentucky, together.
“He will be missed greatly – not because of what he did, but because of who he was,” Willenbrink said. “The world needs more good people like Don Lillie.”
SGA President Daniel Hager, who was an advisee of Lillie’s, remembers him as a great early influence in his college career.
“My first adviser when I came here was Don Lillie,” Hager said. “I was an unprepared freshman that was going through day-by-day worrying about stuff instead of actually accomplishing anything, and he was one of the first professors to actually hold me accountable.”
Hager explained that he transitioned from a high schooler to a college student because of Lillie’s influence.
SGA Senator Brian Shewell’s college experience was also impacted by Lillie.
“He gave me my first A ever at Western, so that was awesome,” Shewell said. “Potter Hall is going to be much, much different now that Don isn’t there.”
Professor of Theatre Tee Quillin worked closely with Lillie.
“He was always there when you needed him,” Quillin said. “He always had a smile on his face; it was rare to see him without a smile.”
Students and faculty across campus have been honoring Lillie’s memory by wearing Baja hoodies and placing notes and flowers on his office door. Quillin explained that the theater students are honoring Lillie by doing what he loved the most.
“I left the memorial service and came right back to rehearsal, and the students did too,” Quillin said. “Part of the reason why is because Don lived very much by that old adage of ‘the show must go on.'”
Lillie is survived by sons Matthew Lillie, Paul Lillie and Shawn Blessing; daughters Susan Lillie, Katherine Colleen Lillie and Rebecca Downing; grandchildren Mason Miller, Bella Downing, Marcus Downing and Tinslee Blessing; sister LaVerne Cole; brother Dennis Lillie; and numerous nieces and nephews.