Allie Bedell

Student Life Editor


In the computer lab at the Mason Library at Keene State College hang 39 portraits. Professor William Seigh of the theatre and dance department will join them this fall as the recipient of the 40th Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award. Seigh received the award on Monday, August 22, 2011, during the opening convocation with faculty and staff, just days before freshmen landed on campus.

“Teaching is so important, and to be recognized as a teacher is deeply moving,” Seigh said.
Seigh began teaching at the college level in 1980 before he landed at KSC in 1997, among them Wichita State University, James Madison University, Wesleyan University, and University of California-Irvine.He began his career as a psychology major, contemplating dance therapy and entirely convinced that he could not make an adequate career out of his passion for dance. He started dancing in high school and was a member of the school district’s annual musical.

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Believing he could not make money dancing, Seigh danced for himself but thought that he needed to pursue something else. His local theatre recruited him for a position in their version of ‘Oklahoma!’ but he declined because he needed to get a job. The producer decided to give him a job as a choreographer for the theatre provided Seigh took the role. He accepted and truly launched his career teaching dance. Seigh taught in a dance studio in Los Angeles between 1976 and 1978.
“I was making money doing what I loved while I was thinking I needed to do something else,” Seigh said of those early years.
In 1987 he got his Master of Fine Arts in dance and choreography in Boulder where he also danced in a company.
“It was around that point that while I was performing, my passion was teaching,” Seigh said.
Eventually, Seigh wound up with the best-case scenario at James Madison: he taught, performed and had his own dance company. After so many years of following his passion for dance while searching for his career, he finally figured out that he could combine the two.
“I realized that I can have a career in dance,” Seigh said. “It really came together for me at that point.”

Seigh notes that his time at KSC has been unlike the atmospheres of other campuses. He says that students are enthusiastic to learn and teachers really care about and are committed to their work.

“It’s a very rich and rewarding place to be. The spirit on this campus is positive,” Seigh said.

The Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award is presented to one teacher each year by the Alumni Association. Recipients can be nominated by anyone, and are chosen by a secret committee. The committee is usually made up of six or seven members, including professors and a student, who deliberate based solely on the nomination packets. Nomination packets require the nominee to be full-time tenure track and include an essay as well as a minimum of five letters of support. Winning nominees generally have a variety of recommendation letters. Patty Farmer, the director of Alumni and parent relations, said that each professor on campus changes lives, it is the essence of the job.

“This isn’t just an award, it’s recognition. It’s the pinnacle,” Farmer said. “I think it’s even more challenging because we started out as an institution teaching teachers.”

Professor Daniel Patterson, a colleague of Seigh’s, emphasized how impressed he is with Seigh’s willingness to do for others. Patterson and Seigh have worked together on many productions in the dance and theatre department; Patterson asked Seigh to choreograph “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” for him back in 1998, just a year after Seigh began at KSC.

“William is very generous with his time,” Patterson said. “That is one of the things that always amazes me.”

Because there are so many fantastic professors on campus, the committee really looks for nominations that reach outside of their own disciplines and classes to make a difference on the campus.

“Seeing that cross-discipline aspect of it is well appreciated,” Farmer said.

Each year the distinguished teacher of the year delivers a speech to freshmen during convocation to set the tone for the academic atmosphere on campus. On Wednesday, August 31, 2011 during this year’s convocation, Alan Hodsdon, the Alumni Association president and member of the class of 1968, introduced Seigh, citing Seigh’s nomination.

“The letters of support for Mr. Seigh are rich with praise and commendation,” Hodsdon said at the Welcome Convocation. “His nomination packet contained letters of support from colleagues, alumni, and current students. They include superlatives regarding his mentorship, wealth of knowledge, generosity, patience, and artistry.”

Seigh is humble in his recognition, and instead focuses on his students: their ability to grow and become themselves.

“I’ve come to recognize that for me, teaching is helping students recognize and realize their potential,” Seigh said. “When I teach someone to dance, it opens up a much broader door for who each of us can be.”

Patterson attested to Seigh’s commitment to his students.

“Most of his students can’t wait to go to class- I can’t say that about mine!” Patterson joked. “William gets to be good friends with his students. When they leave, they come back to visit.”

Seigh fosters relationships with his students that allow them to work closely together in order to ensure that he can provide them with the greatest opportunity to learn possible. This is especially true of former student Shawn Ahern, of the class of 2010, who has been successful in his dance career post-KSC. Since graduating, Ahern has become a member of Pilobolus, an internationally known dance group. The group most notably teamed up with the band OK Go for the creation of their newest video “All Is Not Lost.” Pilobolus and OK Go performed on America’s Got Talent this summer as special guests on the show.

“It’s so rewarding to see Shawn go on and have such a rich career,” Seigh said, adding how gracious Ahern has been to KSC for his achievements. Seigh remains in touch with Ahern and said that he’s exhausted from the demanding schedule of travelling and performing all over, but that he loves every second of it. Seigh will continue to work with students at KSC to encourage them to realize their full selves. Regardless of the discipline of each student’s calling, he says it is of the utmost importance to follow it.

“You must listen to what drives you, dare to make a difference, and believe in your own potential,” Seigh said to freshmen at the Welcome Convocation.


Allie Bedell can be contacted at


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