In words and music, the UNC Pembroke community said goodbye to Professor Travis Stockley, who died in an August 24 auto accident.
UNCP’s Music Department staged a tribute September 6 to Stockley in the Givens Performing Arts Center. Since joining the faculty in the Musical Theatre program, the popular and energetic professor staged several musicals at the University including “Sweeney Todd,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’” and “Charlie Brown.”
Stockley with students
Speaking at the memorial services, students said Stockley energized and nurtured their talents. David Crow Jr., who played the lead in “Charlie Brown” and is a graduate of the Musical Theatre program, said he came to the program to sing and left a better person.
“He taught me how to act, he taught me how to dance, and he taught me how to laugh at myself,” Crow said. “He would say, ‘Don’t talk, just do it.’”
Felicia Mangum, a current student, said Stockley supported her stage ambitions.
“He helped me realize that music was it for me,” Mangum said. “He was always talking and laughing. When his door was open, you had to run by it, or you would be late for class.”
Stockley’s energy inspired others to perform, a theme echoed by music major Joquana Shaw, who attended the memorial.
“He helped me get into the vocal program,” Shaw said. “He made sure my voice was heard. I will never forget his kindness.”
Some of Stockley’s favorite music was performed by UNCP students during the 90-minute tribute. UNCP faculty and administrators offered words of comfort.
David Thaggard, assistant director of the Givens Performing Arts Center, worked with Stockley to put several shows on stage.
“He was great to work with, and he will be dearly missed,” Thaggard said.
Music Department Chair Dr. Janita Byars said Stockley lived by his belief that, “Where there is love, there is learning.”
Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said the loss of a faculty member is always difficult for the University community.
“It’s great to be part of a family, and it’s difficult to lose a member of the family,” Chancellor Allen C. Meadors said. “Travis was blessed because he loved what he did.”
Stockley brought professionalism, passion and bliss to his craft, said Dr. Thomas Leach, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
“Travis taught us that our own hearts are the best guide to our innermost feelings,” Dr. Leach said. “We shall miss him, but we will not forget him.”
Long-time friend Ross Fraser, who traveled from Chicago, Ill., offered a final tribute.
“It’s been a very emotional two weeks for me,” Fraser said. “When I met Travis our freshmen year, I disliked him instantly. We quickly became best friends.
“He devoted himself to theatre single-mindedly,” Fraser said. “He was also very talented and quickly became a major player in Chicago theatre.”
“Travis was probably my best friend, and I will miss him forever,” Fraser said. “I hope that students here will have friends, who after 28 years, you still care about.
“Travis would have been right proud of you all today,” he concluded.
A veteran of stage and higher education Stockley, 50, joined UNCP in 2002 and was instrumental in establishing the Bachelor of Music program in Musical Theatre in 2005.
He directed over 100 professional productions throughout the U.S. and Europe, including “The Music Man” (starring Gary Sandy), “Man of La Mancha” (starring David Holiday), “My Fair Lady,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “West Side Story,” “Grease” and “Show Boat."
A Chicago, Ill., native, Stockley earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts from Illinois Wesleyan and his Master of Fine Arts from Northwestern University. He was a member of the East Carolina University faculty before coming to UNCP.
Stockley won the Outer Critics Award for the best Off-Broadway musical production and the Joseph Jefferson Award for best director of a musical. A finalist in the Sundance Theatre Lab, he entered three shorts in the Sundance Film Festival.
An active member of his community, Stockley served on the Advisory Board for the outdoor drama “Strike At The Wind!” in Pembroke, N.C., and directed plays at the Gilbert Theater in Fayetteville, N.C. He was also a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia, a national music fraternity for men.