Colleagues, friends, and students past and present are remembering the man who helped grow the Casper College Theatre Department from a tiny stage to a nationally renowned program.
Thomas Empey passed away Wednesday at the age of 70. He led the program at Casper College for some 31 years before retiring in 2010.
Rich Burk, head of the Casper College Acting Program, remembers Empey as a teacher who was both stern and nurturing. "He had high demands, he had high standards" says Burk, "and he was able to achieve high standards and students were able to able to achieve very high accomplishments under Tom's guidance, always feeling like the teacher was always there to support. And one of the things I learned from Tom was to be firm but always supportive and always nurturing, and I've taken that with me into the classroom as well."
The program started in a tiny theatre space in the basement of the Administration Building, but by the end of Empey's first five years at the school, the beautiful Gertrude Krampert Theater was being built, and the department had expanded to include a school of dance. Serving under four college presidents, Empey directed 86 plays during his tenure and served as artistic director for many more. He was on the Wyoming Arts Council for six years, and served as chairman for two of those years, and was the recipient of the Governor's Arts Award in 1997.
Burk says Empey had a strong impact on the arts in Casper and across the state. "What he taught the people of Casper is that the Arts are for everyone and that they should never be viewed as elitist. He tried to do theatre that would reach out to all walks of life and entertain people, and perhaps make them think a couple of things as they left the theatre."Although he retired in 2010, he continued to have ties to Casper College and the Casper Theatre scene. Tom Empey is survived by this wife Lissa and three children David, Nicholas, and Erin, as well as several grandchildren.