Al Wiggins, a retired associate professor of communications and theatre arts at WCU, was among 12 other state employees nominated for a NC Governor’s Award for Excellence on Monday, October 22, 2001. The awards will be given out at the Museum of History in Raleigh.
Wiggins just removed himself from the faculty of WCU this past May. He began working here in 1986, teaching in the areas of television writing and production, direction for the camera, and comparative film studios. Founder of the Black Theatre Ensemble, he wanted to put “black students in touch with their history and culture, and provide them an opportunity to perform before audiences that share with them an appreciation of that history and culture.”
In one word, Dr. Kathy Wright, head of the theatre department, described Wiggins as having much enthusiasm, whether it was dealing with his students, professional life or the field. Wiggins brought a sense of professionalism to the classroom that “inspired those around him to be professional” as well.
When asked what his mission at WCU was, Wiggins stated, “I wanted to attain the status of what the word professor really means, a master teacher, to make a difference, and to inspire students to seek the best in themselves.”
Although not having full success with reaching his mission, BTE enabled him to fulfill part of it.
Wright considered him a role model to students in the electronic field. He participated in plays with his students and “exposed them to different views.” By bringing his experiences as an actor to the classroom, Wiggins showed anyone who was interested how to do things step by step so they could learn specific techniques that would help them to better themselves.
During his time here, he was able to bring some of his own works to the stage, like “Hollywood on the Tuckaseegee” and “Chickasaw Park,” a nostalgic play set during a time when most parks and other public facilities in Wiggins’ hometown of Louisville, KY, “and elsewhere in the South,” were segregated.
Teamwork was not a hardship to Wiggins. Some of the music students would compose the music for the plays that were performed.
In the meantime, he is serving as an advisor to a couple of institutions and continues to perform. Students and faculty will always remember his dominant voice carrying over the whole room, keeping you tuned in to what he was going to say next. Dr. Wright is one who will never forget the late night rehearsals given, nor the beautiful music that came from his voice and the sight of seeing him on stage will stick in her mind for years to come.