By Ashley Oliver
Timothy J. Amrhein, chair of the Department of Performing and Fine Arts at York College, passed away on Oct. 6, after a short battle with cancer.
One year after earning his Masters in Scenic Design from Wayne State University in Detroit, Amrhein began working at York in 2000 as an Associate Professor. After former Performing Arts Department Chair, Kenneth Adams passed away in 2011, Amrhein was elected to serve. During that time, he earned the CUNY Diversity Projects Development Fund Award from the CUNY Graduate School, where he helped to combine the Hispanic culture with American theatre. For the past 5 years, Amrhein helped with the college’s theatrical production, served on multiple research committees. He was remembered as a distinguished faculty member who oversaw numerous theater productions through the years.
“As both a colleague and a dear friend, he had a tremendous impact on me,” said York’s Men’s Center Director, Jonathan Quash. “Specifically, his passion for offering students the opportunity to experience the magic of theater had the greatest impact on me. He was very dedicated to his craft but he also felt that we should do all we can to provide our students a chance to participate in something that would allow them to explore their talents.”
Amrhein advocated for political and racial equality in theatre, according to his colleagues. Amrhein helped to translate the Dominican play, La Luz De Un Cigarrillo from Spanish into English. He was an active member of the United States Institute for Technology, and helped to direct many multi-cultural plays at York. Former York Theatre Major, Anthony Castro, said although he only had brief encounters with him, Amrhein taught him a valuable lesson that helped him that he will remember forever.
“He cast me in my first role as a freshman,” said Castro. “Even though people weren’t too confident in casting freshman for main roles, he believed in me. He taught me to never get too shaken up even when I completely screw up on stage. He told me the audience doesn’t write the script. I do. That always remains in my mind.”
York Student Government Association Vice President Jerome Barrett said Amrhein taught him how to be an effective role model.
“He ran the committee so well and I always admired him for how well he did it,” said Barrett. “He was always organized and showed us how to be prepared for the real world beyond our field. His illness came as a shock to me because he was always hard working. He deserved nothing but respect.”
Amrhein leaves behind his wife and 3-year-old daughter, Zoe. He was also working on a Spring 2017 production of Five Guys Named Moe. In honor of his service, York will have a memorial for him next year on Feb. 16 at 6 p.m.
“At the event we will pay tribute to a man that gave his all to the college by hearing from friends and colleagues but we will also wind back the hands of time and relive some of his works on stage,” said Quash.