Dance emerita honored for advocacy

Contact: Deanne Puca
WMU emerita Wendy Cornish standing at a table with Great Works awards and displays.


KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Wendy Cornish, an advocate and champion of dance for more than 50 years, including 37 years as professor and chair of dance at Western Michigan University, is the recipient of this year's Partners in Dance Community Dance Advocacy Award. The award, presented at a reception Feb. 2, celebrates an individual who has demonstrated significant accomplishment in advancing and supporting dance in the greater Kalamazoo area through volunteerism, philanthropy, artistic achievement, teaching and administrative leadership.


Cornish, who retired from WMU in 2003 with emerita status, was instrumental in shaping the department's vision and curricular approach, evolving classes originally housed in the department of physical education to an independent program within the College of Fine Arts, with accreditation as a degree-granting institution by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Her legacy resonates through the rigorous academic and aesthetic training that distinguishes the WMU dance program from its peers and prepares students for vibrant professional careers in dance and related fields. WMU recognized her achievements as a teacher and awarded her with the College of Fine Arts Outstanding Service Award in 1995, the WMU Alumni Association's Teaching Excellence Award in 1996, and the Helen Frays Named Professorship in 1997.

Her dedication to dance education included administration, direction and service to dance organizations beyond the University. She was instrumental in the development of several regional and national organizations which serve the educational dance community including the American College Dance Festival Association, now American College Dance Association; the Michigan Association for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, now SHAPE Michigan; the Michigan Youth Arts Festival; and Partners in Dance.  In many cases, she served these organizations for decades impacting thousands of dance students and instructors in Michigan and beyond.

Cornish also extended her expertise to the Kalamazoo community as a choreographer and lighting designer for WMU's University Theatre, Miller Auditorium, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, New Vic Theatre, WMU Opera, Kalamazoo Community Youth Theatre, Kalamazoo Network and Good Measure, and many College of Fine Arts interdisciplinary collaborative projects. She has also served such organizations as the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Michigan Dance Association, and Michigan Council for the Arts, and was instrumental in supporting Cori Terry in the formation of Wellspring/Cori Terry and Dancers.


Nominations are accepted all year, and review of nominations occurs each fall.  For more information about the award and nomination process, visit

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