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CWU Theatre Arts lecturer joins exclusive company with Gold Medallion Award

CWU Theatre Arts senior lecturer Jerry Dougherty

CWU Theatre Arts senior lecturer Jerry Dougherty won the Gold Medallion Award at last month's Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region 7 conference. (Photos by Frankie Benka)

A Central Washington University Theatre Arts faculty member stole the show at last month’s Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region 7 conference when he was presented with the Gold Medallion Award.

Jerry Dougherty, a senior lecturer and production management specialist, was recognized for his 15 years of service at the annual festival in Spokane, which attracts hundreds of students and faculty from nine states. 

The Gold Medallion is regarded as the “most prestigious regional award” given by the organization and “one of the greatest honors in theatre education.” Recipients are selected for demonstrating a lasting commitment to the values and goals of KCACTF and to excellence in educational theater. 

“Ultimately, the reason I do the work that I do with KCACTF is the same reason a lot of my peers and colleagues do,” said Dougherty, who coordinates scheduling, rooms, workshops, and technical needs for the weeklong festival. “We recognize the unique role the organization plays in supporting theater in higher education.” 

Jerry Dougherty receives the Gold Medallion Award at the KCACTF Region 7 conference.Every year, the eight KCACTF regions honor individuals and organizations who have made extraordinary contributions to the teaching and producing of theater, and who have significantly dedicated their time, artistry, and enthusiasm to the development of the festival. Five CWU Theatre Arts students also were honored at the Region 7 conference. Read more about their accomplishments in a separate article

Since it was founded in 1969, the national organization has provided more than 400,000 college theater students with the opportunity to have their work critiqued, improve their dramatic skills, and receive national recognition for excellence. The festival also gives theater arts students and faculty across the country a forum to learn everything there is to know about theater, ensemble, and production.

“The mission of KCACTF is to recognize the whole of theater; they don’t just focus on theory or history or individual effort,” Dougherty said. “They acknowledge that theater is a collaborative art, and they try to bring recognition to everybody within that.”

Dougherty noted that he and his colleagues at CWU and around the state are 100% committed to doing whatever they can to create a better experience for the next generation of theater arts professionals. By bringing so many people together, KCACTF is one significant part of that effort.

“I think it’s really important for students to see the work that their peers are doing, and have a forum specifically dedicated to celebrating that,” he said. “With a region as large as ours, there’s a lot of different schools, and a lot of smaller regions that all look different.”

One of Dougherty’s former students, Brock Jacobson, said he can’t think of a more deserving recipient of the Gold Medallion. Dougherty’s willingness to go out of his way to help his students has been instrumental to the success of CWU alumni like Jacobson, a 2018 Theatre Design and Production graduate.

“Jerry was always this person you’d find working after hours in the shop on complex projects, and he’d always offer to teach or let you jump in and help,” said Jacobson, who now works as an operations manager at Clearwing Systems Integration, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “He really made an impression, and I was greatly inspired and encouraged by him. I think back to some of the people who really went above and beyond to support me and find ways to feed my interests, and Jerry is one of the people at the top of that list.” 

One of Dougherty’s talents that tends to resonate with his former students is his innate desire to put his students’ needs first, and do everything he can to help them achieve their professional goals. Jacobson talked about the real-world impact of Dougherty’s guidance when he was working to become a technical director at Central. 

“There’s no clear program to becoming a technical director, but he helped set me up with independent studies and identified specialized courses to help develop my knowledge and skills” Jacobson said. “By the time I graduated, I had developed this great connection with him as my mentor, who I still often reach out to with questions or for suggestions.” 

Dougherty introduced Jacobson to industry groups such as USITT (United States Institute of Theater Technology) and KCACTF, and connected him with industry professionals. One of those connections led to an apprenticeship with the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Opera. That experience led to Jacobson’s current position at Clearwing Systems Integration, where he performs entertainment setups for theme parks, museums, and other large installations. 

Jacobson said he traces much of his early career success back to Dougherty’s caring and support while he was at Central.

“I think one of Jerry’s greatest strengths is his ability to give,” he said. “He not only challenged me, but also made himself available to push, develop and support the growth of my career far beyond the classroom. I can tell you that without his mentorship, I wouldn’t be doing the work or in the industry that I am today.”

Media Contact: David Leder, Department of Public Affairs,, 509-963-1518