As a teacher and director in the prestigious graduate WSU Hilberry Theatre program (a rare academic troupe that performs in rotating rep), Dr. Hazzard touched the lives of many rising artists. Some students, such as Anita Barone, S. Epatha Merkerson, Thorsten Kaye, Jeffrey Tambor and Max Wright, would go on to be nationally recognized.
WSU also operates the Bonstelle Theatre as part of its undergraduate theatre program.
Dr. Hazzard died in Raleigh, NC, where he had lived since retiring from WSU in 1994. He was 74 years old.
Born in Elkhart, IL, he received his BFA from Illinois Wesleyan University in 1954, his MA from Michigan State University in 1955, and his PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1962. He served in the U.S. Army in the 1950s.
Dr. Hazzard joined the faculty of the Department of Theatre at Wayne State University in 1963, became Department Chair in 1988. He was instrumental in the early artistic success of the Hilberry Theatre, which also began in 1963. He directed over 200 productions, with nearly 150 at Wayne State during his 30 years of teaching. He also directed at the Theatre in the Round in Minneapolis, the Oberlin Summer Theatre, the Huron Playhouse and Bowling Green University.
He took two productions to the American College Theatre Festival in Washington, D.C. —The Amorous Fleas and Philadelphia, Here I Come. In 1989 he received the Best Director Award and Best Production Award for Wild Honey from the Detroit Free Press. Also in 1989, he received the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching at Wayne State University.
Blair Anderson, WSU's current theatre chair, himself a onetime student of Dr. Hazzard, said in a statement, "Bob was a crucial creative member of the original hires made by [WSU theatre department founder] Leonard Leone in the building of the Bonstelle and Hilberry programs. His theatrical acumen and infectious, sometimes biting, humor was contagious. He was particularly noted for his immaculate handling of period comedies, particularly productions of The Imaginary Invalid, The Comedy of Errors, The Ridiculous Young Ladies, She Stoops to Conquer, The Servant of Two Masters and Twelfth Night. He helped shape the aesthetic sensibility of countless undergraduate and graduate students."
Since 1994, Dr. Hazzard resided in Raleigh, NC, where he continued intermittent directing, most notably Marsha Norman's Getting Out and a site-specific mounting of Inherit the Wind.
Memorial donations may be made to the Robert T. Hazzard Student Production Support Endowment Fund at WSU.