Sandy Speer

One of the first people I met when I arrived in Louisville in the fall of 1976 was Sandy Speer of Actors Theatre fame. Sandy was chief operating officer of Actors Theatre from 1969 to his retirement in 2006. Sandy and Jon Jory conducted part of the interview when I was being considered for my job at the Fund for the Arts.

Sandy was (always) a kind of living legend in our Arts world. In today’s million dollar conversations, folklore has it that Sandy once helped meet payroll by selling the radiators at the old Actors Theatre for scrap. A tight grant deadline in 1977 found Sandy and me working side by side on dueling typewriters composing a just-in-time grant application (we got the grant!). In short, Sandy did what needed to be done, had the right stuff, and was always a gentleman of confidence to his very end. Sandy passed last week and I miss him. Everyone who enjoys or who has ever enjoyed Actors Theatre should be thankful for Sandy Speer and for his enormous contributions to our hometown.

And, while we’re celebrating one legend – I want to pause for a moment and proclaim my admiration for our newest generation of professional Arts leaders in the form of Rob Birman at the Louisville Orchestra, Jennifer Bielstein at Actors Theatre, David Roth at Kentucky Opera, Terry Foster at Louisville Youth Choir, and Alison Huff at Walden Theatre (of course – there are others). These very bright and talented younger people (younger than I) are leaders in the Sandy Speer tradition of doing what needs to be done while not backing away from the very difficult challenges that are a part of management in today’s environment.

It’s funny….I know firsthand that a few of these folks are catching some flack for their leadership initiatives right now. Yet, there is not a single person in this quintet who lacks the passion, perseverance, grey matter, or commitment necessary to move our Arts forward. Trust me on this point.

So, please join me in saying a prayer of thanks in memory of Sandy Speer. Join everyone in thanking all of our brilliant leadership team for dedicating their career to our Arts. And finally, hey, give yourself a break and add your voice to our chorus at our Arts Showcase and Campaign Kickoff on February 1 at 12 noon at the Brown Theatre. Click here and make your reservation. Just say, “Allan sent me!”


Allan Cowen
President & CEO
Fund for the Arts

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