Friends and students of the late teacher to gather in July

A portrait of the late Josefina
Niggli by WCU student Michael
Dodson Jr. (below right) won a
campuswide competition.

Students, friends and fans of the late Josefina Niggli will gather for a reunion and celebration at Western Carolina from Friday, July 9, to Sunday, July 11 – nearly 100 years to the day after her birth July 13, 1910, in Monterrey, Mexico.

Niggli wrote novels, poetry, screenplays and radio shows. Also an actress, she spent the latter part of her career at WCU as an instructor and was key in establishing the drama department. To date, the Josefina Niggli Scholarship has awarded more than $126,000 to 128 theater arts students.

Two of Niggli’s former students, Luther Jones ’74 MAEd ’82, technical director for the stage and screen department at WCU, and Steve Carlisle ’73, associate dean of the WCU Honors College, are co-chairs of the committee planning the reunion. Events will include a student-created performance; screening of the movie “Sombrero,” which is based on portions of Niggli’s book of short stories “Mexican Village”; a mixer; and a tour of WCU’s theater arts venues.

The celebration follows a yearlong series of events in recognition of Niggli’s life and career accomplishments. Among those events was a student portrait contest won by Michael Dodson Jr., a student in WCU’s School of Art and Design, for his large-scale, mixed-media portrait featuring Niggli’s likeness in black-and-white oil paint over pages from “Mexican Village.”

Dodson received a $500 purchase award from the College of Fine and Performing Arts, and his portrait becomes a part of that college’s permanent collection. After the July reunion, it will be installed permanently in the Niggli Theatre lobby.

Another new addition at WCU in Niggli’s honor is a collection of original illustrations by the late Marian Fitz-Simons for Niggli’s “Mexican Village.” The artist’s son and daughter-in-law, Sean and Ann Fitz-Simons ’65, recently donated the artwork to the Niggli archive in Hunter Library’s Special Collections.

“When I saw the article about Josefina Niggli in the university magazine, I thought, ‘This is the perfect place for these,’” said Ann Fitz-Simons. “We have lots of her beautiful works. Donating the drawings was a way to share them with others.”