In Gloria Link’s dynamic LIR presentations, we have had the benefit of an extraordinary life steeped in literature and theater.
A graduate of Marquette University, in the mid-1940s she added a master of arts degree to her undergraduate majors in speech (theater) and English; and she went on to earn her doctorate in speech/ theater at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. After teaching at Marquette and Tampa University, in 1959 she joined the faculty of what is now the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. In addition to her teaching assignments, she was for 26 years coordinator of the theater program here.
Where this talent is rooted -and how we came to have her in our cadre of presenters -is found in a little five-year-old girl on a public playground at Milwaukee’s Longfellow School, where she came under the influence of a certain Miss Stanley.
“I feel I’ve been in school all my life, and I owe my career in part to wonderful influences in my childhood: the story-telling times on that playground and making up “Hansel and Gretel” dialogue in a second grade parochial school classroom under Sister Athanasius, who gave me my first practical lesson in improvising,” she remembers.
When she was in high school, “the big war was on and the guys were away.” She recalls acting primarily in one-act plays until, at the age of 16, she joined the Catholic Players. “I had to take a trolley across town … but I got it done.”
She gave some thought to going into nursing but decided science was not her cup of tea. Her enthusiasm for acting continued at Marquette, and she joined the well-established Norman Players. It was in graduate school when the heavier serious parts were offered her and infused her further with an enthusiasm that has never waned.
For many years Gloria acted in the Green Ram Summer Theatre in the Wisconsin Dells/Baraboo area, where she also was a resident director for seven years and theater consultant for many more. Some of her favorite directing assignments were Chekov’s “The Cherry Orchard” and Moliere’s “Tartuffe.” Her favorite acting roles include Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” Queen Margaret in “Richard III,” and Mary in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night.” In her career, Gloria has directed more than one hundred plays (and acted in as many) in all media -radio, television, film, and stage.
While she is not especially fond of TV or film acting -“It’s downright unnerving getting all those directions through an earplug and listening to all that swearing!” she did pay for almost all her graduate training by acting on radio, making commercials. She and Karl Schmidt, still a reader for Chapter a Day, worked together, producing commercials for the five stations owned by Gerald Bartell, well remembered in Wisconsin radio circles. Remembering the pay scale of those months, she chuckles and says, “It paid the rent!”
Gloria keeps in touch with former students and friends from the past, primarily with notes on Christmas cards. “What comes as a blow,” she confesses, “is when they write, ‘Miss Link, I just want to let you know I’m retiring this year.’ I can’t believe how the years have fled.”
She still enjoys teaching and directing, one of the reasons she has joined LIR and participates so often as a presenter. “I love the response from our members. It keeps us all intellectually young. And I can take up new things now, look in on others’ specialties, things that were always on the fringe of what interests me.”
Asked what pleases her most, she says, “There are three things I do -and I do them well-act, direct and teach. I have command of these things, and I adore each one. Each satisfies a different aspect of my personality, my needs. I have had the best of many worlds.”
Gloria is an active member of the UW Oshkosh Retired Faculty Association and a member of the Oshkosh School District’s SOAR (Special Opportunities for Artist Residencies), which places artist-in-residence in local K-12 schools. Her advice to LIR is to encourage more members to contribute to the curriculum menu, to introduce new courses so that it stays as varied and rich as it has been.
“It is much like kneading yeast dough. I love the new friends I have made through LIR. They’ve had a lifetime of living, a story to tell. Those who have the itch to step up’ and tell it should be encouraged,” she says.
Few of us have had the colorful career Gloria Link has had, or the opportunity to affect as many lives. But she makes this comment to beginning teachers and feels it fits all of us, whatever our circumstances: “When you are done with all your formal teaching, and your salary concerns and all that jazz are behind you, no one is going to tell you when they meet you on the street that you were a great chairperson or you handled committee meetings and all those bloody reports well. No, it will be, ‘You were one of the best teachers I ever had. I remember the day you said such-and-such, and it changed my life.’ When that recognition comes, unexpected and unbidden, it is a tonic just this side of heaven.”
At a closed retreat some years ago, Gloria was seated at a dinner table with a group of women. When it was her turn to reveal an important person in her life, she told about the playground director, Miss Stanley, and how her ability to stimulate imagination and creativity set a little girl on this path. An older woman seated with them smiled across the table and said, “I was Miss Stanley before I was married.”
The very same person! It was true serendipity. “I was at once floored and delighted,” Gloria says. “I might have been a nurse in Cleveland had I done the practical thing during the Depression. I took a risk, and it has made all the difference.”