Concise Encyclopedia of Tufts HistorySauer, Anne
Balch, Marston Stevens, 1901-1987
|Marston Stevens Balch (1901-1987), known as "Doc" to thousands of Tufts people, helped establish the university's Department of Drama and Speech and Tufts' reputation in the dramatic arts. During his thirty-five years on the Hill, Balch inspired generations ofstudents and faculty, teaching them that theater without intellect and compassion is inevitably theater without artistry and humanity.|
A descendent of hardy "New England stock" who settled in Salem in 1636,Balch was born in Detroit, Michigan, on November 21, 1901.He matriculated at Kalamazoo College, where his father was head of the Department of History, in 1919.After graduating in 1923 with highest honors and a degree in English, Balch moved to the East to attend Harvard, earning a Masters of Arts in 1925, and a Ph. D. in 1931, both in English with a concentration in dramatic literature and in theater history. During his studies, Balch traveled extensively through England and France doing research on Elizabethan drama and English influences on French drama.
He began teaching as an instructor of English and theatrical director at Williams College in 1925.He also held similar positions at the Browne and Nichols School, The New England Conservatory of Music, Harvard, and Phillips Exeter Academy.
In 1934, Balch joined the Tufts faculty as assistant professor of English. The following year he also became thedirector of Drama, the executive director of the Tufts College Theater, and advisor to Tufts' Pen, Paint, and Pretzels. From 1935 to 1966, Balch directed and produced almost 100 plays, many of which he translated from French and were presented in the United States for the first time.
In 1940, Balch persuaded Tufts to take a leadership role in the arts by establishing the first Department of Drama and Speech in a New England. He served as the department's chairman, professor of Drama, and Fletcher Professor of Oratory for twenty-six years. Balch, however, did leave Tufts temporarily during this time to serve as chief of the French Press and Radio Analysis Section of the US Information Service and as chief of Cultural Relations Section under the Department of State during World War II.
Upon his return to the college in 1947, Balch directed his first full-scale production in the arena theatre configuration, which he had experimented with while he was in France. He was the first University Presenter at Tufts and from 1957 to 1969 served as chairman of the Arts and Sciences Faculty Committee on Academic Awards. He also served during his career at Tufts on the Committee on Administration Policies and the Programs Committee of the Graduate School. Balch retired in 1971, becoming professor emeritus.
Balch was married to Germaine Cornier, a native of France, who taught French at Tufts for twenty years, beginning in 1943.Their daughter, Gabrielle, J1950, is a Jackson College graduate. After Cornier's death in 1969, he married Roberta Blanchard in 1976.
As a result of his service to France during World War II, Balch was honored by the French Republic three times: in April 1946, he received a medal and honorary membership in the Association Des Professeurs Des Langues Vivantes; in 1947, the Medaille de la Reconnaissance Francais was bestowed upon him; and in May 1953, he was again distinguished by being a recipient of the Croix de Chavalier de la Legion d'Honneur.
Aside from translating an enormous body of work from French into English, Balch published at least forty scholarly articles, sixty articles for the Tufts University Theater publication, Prologue, and six books. He was a member of various organizations and societies related to the arts, including the National Council of Arts in America and the National Theatre Conference, of which he was Executive Secretary from 1961-1968.In 1966, he was the recipient of the Margo Jones University Award in recognition of his encouragement of aspiring playwrights. He also received an honorary doctorate by Kalamazoo College, his alma mater.
The Marston S. Balch Arena Theatre was named in Balch's honor in 1983, following the generous gift of one of his former students, Elizabeth Bottomley Noyce.
Source: VF, BG 7
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