Marita Woodruff Collection on Webster University Theater
Marita Woodruff (née Ann Ruth Michenfelder) was born December 7, 1927 and grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis not far from the institution where she would spend much of her professional life. She was active in theater in high school, performing in productions such as Arsenic and Old Lace. She attended Webster College (later to be known as Webster University) and majored in Speech. She later earned a Master's degree from St. Louis University and did advanced studies at Yale University and the University of Michigan.
Upon graduation from Webster in 1949, Woodruff entered the Sisters of Loretto order and taught speech and drama in various Catholic schools before coming back to Webster in 1957. She chaired the drama department until 1969, a period of growth and change in the department as well as the university. She was also involved in the design of the Loretto-Hilton Theatre which opened on the Webster campus in 1966. During that premiere season, she became the first nun to join the Actor's Equity Association.
Woodruff directed more than 80 productions during her tenure. Among her awards were the 1967 "Newsmaker" award from the St. Louis Chapter of Theta Sigma Phi (national honorary society for women in journalism), Messing Faculty Award in 1978, the Amoco Gold Medallion for Excellence in 1982, the Kemper Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1992 and the Medal of Excellence by the American College Theatre Festival in 1998. That same year she also received the St. Louis Arts and Education Award. Woodruff retired from the university in 1998 and passed away February 17, 2014.
Finding Aids: a Description of the collection is available.
Oral history interview: Marita Woodruff discussed her background, the history of the theatre program at Webster, the design of the Loretto-Hilton Center, and her approach to production in this 2004 interview (interview transcript).
Ann Marita Woodruff (nee Michenfelder). (2014) Webster-Kirkwood Times. Retrieved from http://www.websterkirkwoodtimes.com. (Read the article).
Ann Marita Woodruff: Obituary. (2014, February 23). St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved from http://www.stltoday.com/ (Read the article).
Jacobsen, Natascha. (1998, April 30-May 8). Mother of the Loretto-Hilton retires. The Journal, vol. 43, no. 14, p. 13.
Marita Woodruff (personal communication, March 8, 2004). Webster University Oral History Program Recording #2 Interview transcript.
Newmark, Judith. (2014, February 18). Marita Woodruff, 86, helped found the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Retrieved from http://www.stltoday.com/ (Read the article).
Schuster, J.M. (1998, Summer). Outstanding educators: Retiring faculty members reflect on their careers. Webster World, 4, 2-7.
Sister Marita loves people; Theatre offers rich experience. (1964, May). Webster Alumnac, vol. 3, no. 4, p. 4. (read the article)
Photograph courtesy of Claudia Burris. Property of Webster University.
For more information on using our collections, visit the Webster University Archives home page.