Sarah-Jane Gwillim and Roland John Wiley Retire



Following 28 years of nurturing and honing the talents of hundreds of acting students, Sarah-Jane Gwillim, assistant professor of theatre, has retired. Known for her infectious enthusiasm and energy, Gwillim was a favorite of students. For her, it was a two-way street. “Their energy and their friendliness and their absorption is just wonderful,” she said.


“Sarah-Jane has been a shining light in our hallways, our classrooms and in our hearts all these years,” said Priscilla Lindsay, associate professor and chair of the theatre & drama department. “Her students adored her and she loved them back. We have been well-served to have an actress, teacher and colleague of Sarah-Jane's caliber in our midst, and we shall miss her terribly!”


Gwillim’s career at U-M began in 1984 when she and her husband Philip Kerr, professor of theatre, were both offered positions. Gwillim taught all levels of performance within the theatre program, and also taught students from outside the program who took entry-level acting courses as electives. “It was constantly fascinating,” she said. Throughout the years, she served as assistant director on scores of theatre productions.


A native of England, Gwillim grew up in the theatre. Her father was Jack Gwillim, a prolific character actor. When she was a child, he worked at London’s Old Vic, so she grew up knowing actors associated with that legendary venue, such as Richard Burton. She attended the University of London’s Central School for Speech & Drama and then enjoyed a successful career on stage and television starring with such renowned British actors as Malcolm McDowell, Timothy Dalton, Judi Dench and Glenda Jackson.


Gwillim moved to the United States at age 25 and, after a brief hiatus, performed both on and off Broadway and at regional theatres around the country, including the Stratford (Connecticut) and California Shakespeare festivals. Gwillim met Kerr at Stratford. They married and had the first of their two daughters shortly before moving to Ann Arbor. “Giving up acting to teach was odd,” said Gwillim, “but there was so much in return.”






Roland John Wiley retired this spring after 38 years as a professor of musicology. One of the world’s foremost scholars in Russian music and ballet of the 19th century, Wiley’s teaching embraced Russian music, 18th- through 20th-century European music, and seminar work ranging from music drama to art song to Tchaikovsky. He advised Michigan dissertations on Schubert, Mendelssohn’s revival of Bach's music, Franz Liszt, Stravinsky, Vaughan Williams, Holst and Shostakovich.


Wiley earned his undergraduate degree in music from Stanford University, with departmental honors in choral conducting. He completed his doctorate at Harvard in 1974 with a dissertation on Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, setting the stage for his career. He has been an invited speaker at conferences and institutions across the United States, Great Britain and Europe and since 1983 has served as production consultant for revivals of The Nutcracker and Swan Lake by the Royal Ballet at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He is currently preparing studies of the choreographer Marius Petipa.


Wiley is the author of several acclaimed books, including Tchaikovsky's Ballets (1985), A Century of Russian Ballets (1990) and The Life and Ballets of Lev Ivanov, Choreographer of ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’ (1997), for which he was awarded the de la Torre Bueno Prize for the best book in dance published that year. His most recent book was Tchaikovsky for Oxford University Press’s Master Musicians Series (2009), which received outstanding reviews. The Washington Post called it “a substantial examination of Tchaikovsky's work, colorfully described and authoritatively judged."


James Borders, chair of musicology, recalls that Wiley made several research visits to Moscow and Leningrad during the Soviet period to conduct scrupulous primary research. “The almost unimaginably difficult working conditions of Soviet cultural institutions, not to mention Cold War politics, would have discouraged almost anyone,” said Borders, “but John met these challenges with patience, humor and by cultivating warm, personal friendships with Russian librarians and archivists.”


Borders has worked with Wiley at U-M for 32 years. “John’s knowledge of repertoire is nothing short of magisterial. A clear thinker, brilliant analyst, plain speaker and excellent writer, John was a model colleague whose distinguished presence is already sorely missed at the school.”