O'Sullivan family donates Blythe O'Sullivan Studio Theatre in memory of daughter

December 19, 2011

When Blythe O'Sullivan '04 passed away in 2007 during her service in the Peace Corps, her parents, John and Joan O'Sullivan, knew they had to do something to keep her memory alive. Blythe was killed in an apparent accident in Suriname, South America.  She lived in a village in the Amazon rain forest populated by Maroons, the descendants of runaway slaves.

"Whatever we were going to do, we knew it had to be something that Blythe would be proud of, and we wanted a project that would benefit other students," said Joan O'Sullivan. 

Blythe was a business/marketing major but held a strong love of acting and was quite active in theatre during her time at Bradley.

"It was the love of every aspect of the theatre program that was her true passion," said John O'Sullivan.

The O'Sullivans were looking for a way to keep Blythe's legacy going in a way that would have a lasting impact on future generations of students. When Duffy Armstrong and George Brown gave the family the idea of renovating the Studio Theatre, the O'Sullivans knew it was the right choice.

"We knew immediately this was the right choice for us. It just felt right, and we also knew Blythe truly enjoyed the time she spent in this 'classroom,' as she spoke of it often. Realizing that this project would benefit so many students every year, for many years to come, was definitely the right decision," Joan said.

George Brown, chair of the Department of Theatre Arts, said the O'Sullivan's gesture is in keeping with Blythe's own reputation for generosity.

"Blythe's death was shocking and completely unexpected. She was very active in theatre and hard working. She held a heartfelt belief in the importance of giving back," Brown said.

The renovation on the Studio Theatre began last summer. So far, a double-thick wall has been installed to serve as a sound block, the floor has been re-leveled and a lighting lab and new storage areas have been added. It's an open studio that can be transformed to a performance venue in less than an hour.

"It's been absolutely transformational for students," Brown said.

Kevin Lynch, current theatre arts major, has been involved in the renovations and is pleased with the progress.

"It is a much more open and versatile space than the old Lab Theatre. There has already been a show in the new space, and it was used in ways that it could never have been used before the renovations," Lynch said.

He is confident the space will be put to good use.

"The space is all around easier to use, and the equipment offers many new opportunities for the students," Lynch said.

The O'Sullivans, who recently visited campus, are just as happy with the work.

"We are just thrilled with the work that's been done so far. We were very impressed when we met the students and others who have given up so much time to accomplish what has been done to date," John said.

The Studio Theatre has been renamed in memory of Blythe, to The Blythe O'Sullivan Studio Theatre.

"I believe that Blythe learned a lot about herself from being involved in theatre at Bradley. She also learned the importance of teamwork, leadership, self-motivation, hard work and being humble," Joan said.