Conley, Horton, Kidd named to CAPA Hall of Fame

The Mrs. H.D. Dear Sr. and Alice E. D. Dear School of Creative and Performing Arts is adding three new members to its Hall of Fame for 2022.

This year’s honorees are long-time School of Creative Performing Arts Administrative Assistant Ladell Conley, Executive Director of the Louisiana School for Math, Science, and the Arts Dr. Steve Horton and the late Phil Kidd, a member of the Department of Theatre and Dance faculty. They will be formally inducted in a ceremony on Wednesday, Dec. 7 at 4:30 p.m. in the Orville Hanchey Gallery. The public is invited to attend.

Conley was a staff member at Northwestern State for 42 years and worked in the School of Creative and Performing Arts for 35 years. She retired recently.

“If you needed help, Ladell was the ‘go to’ person in the CAPA office,” said Director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts Emeritus Bill Brent. “I could not have asked for a better administrative assistant.  She was really organized with all day-to-day paperwork that was required to keep the school running smoothly. Ladell was often the first person at the office each morning at 7 a.m. and frequently the last person to leave in the afternoon.”

Brent said Conley “contributed in so many ways beyond the requirements of her written duties.” She assisted more than 40 faculty members, nearly 500 academic majors in the School of Creative and Performing Arts and more than 400 non-majors who participated in band, choir, orchestra and theatre and dance.

“During her career at NSU, Ladell was vital to the day-to-day operations of CAPA,” said Scott Burrell, director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts. “She mastered the ins and outs of the University’s complex internal systems. She was certainly quick to remind everyone to ‘make sure you keep a copy!’ And below the tough shell she often presented, she would go incredible lengths to help with any issues that someone might encounter. No matter the yearly changes of students, staff and faculty, Ladell was always a constant.”

Brent credited Conley with being a vital part of the success of the Spirit of Northwestern Marching Band. She handled travel arrangements for the 300-member band. She often traveled with the band to handle any emergency situations that might arise.  Conley would sew uniforms that needed repair and oversaw the distribution and return of band uniforms prior to and after all marching band performances.

For many years, Conley managed ticket reservations for four Christmas Gala performances for children which helped to ensure that more than 4,000 elementary school aged children from the region were able to see the Gala each year.

Horton earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and secondary teacher education from Northwestern in 1988. He earned an M.S. in journalism in 1990 and the Ph.D. in vocational education/communication in 1998, both from Louisiana State University.

He returned to Northwestern in 1989 as an instructor of journalism and served in various positions on the campus, including director of Alumni Affairs, head of the Department of Journalism, dean of the Graduate School and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. He ended his tenure at Northwestern in July 2016 as chief academic officer, dean and professor of Education when he was named executive director of the Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts. He continues to teach part-time for the University.

“Dr. Horton played many significant roles at NSU shaping both the Department of New Media, Journalism and Communications and CAPA,” said Burrell. “When I first arrived at the NSU Theatre/Dance department in 1998, Dr. Horton was one of the first friendly faces welcoming me to the NSU and Natchitoches communities. When he became the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, he worked with all of us CAPA to ensure our continued excellence as a premiere school of creative and performing arts. His influence on CAPA remains to this day.”

In 2017, the former Mr. NSU was inducted in the Hall of Distinguished Educators at NSU; in 2020, he was named Leadership Professional of the Year for the Louisiana Council for Exceptional Children; in 2021 was named an Alumnus Advisor of the Year for Kappa Sigma Fraternity, and in 2022 he was named to the inaugural Greek Life Hall of Fame at NSU.

“Throughout Steve’s career in academia, he has been a sought-after journalist because of his ability to communicate messages that are responsive and relevant,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Greg Handel. “His contributions to the Department of New Media, Journalism and Communication Arts are seen from NSU-TV to the radio station, to the Current Sauce. His connections to the profession have led to speeches, speech writing and assisting university presidents, political hopefuls and future and current journalists. His publications are numerous, but his gifts lie in his promotion of the profession, and his furthering of the journalistic integrity necessary for those in the profession. He is a champion of media and its embrace of contemporary perspectives, of experiential learning for students, and for faculty across all disciplines.”

Kidd began his career at NSU in 2002 as the theatre shop foreman for the NSU Theatre and Dance program. In 2003 he moved to the position of assistant professor of theatre and the director of technical theatre where he continued to be integral in the growth of the program. Before retiring in 2020, he had designed sets for over 30 NSU Theatre/Dance productions and was technical director for just as many productions.

“Phil was, and still is, a great influence on so many,” said Burrell. “He took every interaction with a student to teach. It could be about technical theatre or classwork or art.  But just as often, his lessons were about life and growth as a human being.  He gave sage advice to his students who needed more than just insight to schoolwork. It was sometimes with tough love. Sometimes it was with laughs. He was ‘Uncle Phil’ to all.”

Kidd worked on many other shows as a charge artist, technical advisor, shop foreman, props master and any other role thrown at him. In his almost 20 years of service, he was a dedicated faculty member, a caring and giving mentor, a passionate teacher, a gifted artist and a dear friend. He touched the lives of all who worked and “played” with him. For many, he was a father figure, to some he was the “cool uncle.” He was an excellent teacher, being patient, kind, tough, tireless, passionate, demanding, inspiring and protective. He brought out the best in his students and gave them the courage to take risks and to fail and to try again.

“Phil was a great teacher, mentor and friend,” said Director of Production and Design, Technical Theater Robert Richoux, who was a student of Kidd and later a colleague. “He knew that each student learned differently and would adapt to the style of teaching that was best for that student. Phil was always there for you as a student or a graduate. I would always call Phil at random times to ask a question and he would always answer. I knew he had taught me well when those phone calls happened less and less.”

Richoux said Kidd knew how to treat students as equals but in a way that they still understood he was the teacher, and they were the students.

“I believe my graduating class had a much different experience than other classes, because we started here when Phil started which meant we were new to the university and so was he, which seemed to give us a closer connection,” said Richoux. “Phil was always there for you and was a giver. He was selfless and always wanted to deliver on promises. Phil will be in our hearts forever and will be missed.”

Kidd passed away in February 2021 after a lengthy battle with cancer.  To honor him, the Department of Theatre and Dance named its scene shop in his memory.