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Mary Wickes' bequest to fund library collection in film, theatre, television

Mary Wickes' bequest to fund library collection in film, theatre, television

University Libraries are a principal beneficiary of the estate of alumna and actress Mary Wickes, whose classic comic touch enlivened stage and screen for decades. Wickes died in 1995.

From the actress' $2 million bequest, made in memory of her parents, has come the Isabella and Frank Wickenhauser Memorial Library Fund for Television, Film and Theater Arts. The fund will be dedicated at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 16, in the Women's Building Formal Lounge.

"It was her desire for the endowment to allow the libraries to support film, television and theater on campus," said Kevin P. Ray, head of Special Collections. "This allows us to buy books, videos and equipment along a very broad spectrum."

Wickes also gave her personal papers and professional memorabilia to the Department of Special Collections. The gift, which includes scripts from every film and television show in which she performed, will enrich the drama and theater resources of the department's Modern Literature Collection.

Thursday's dedication will premiere an 11-minute video of excerpts from Wickes' work and interviews with Wickes and many who knew her. It will also feature as speakers Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton; Shirley K. Baker, vice chancellor for information technology and dean of University Libraries; and Gregory Richards, Wickes' longtime friend and pastor of the Beverly Hills, Calif., Episcopal church Wickes attended. The ceremony, sponsored by University Libraries and the College of Arts and Sciences, is free and open to the public.

A native St. Louisan, Wickes was born Mary Wickenhauser. She received a liberal arts degree from the University in 1930 and in 1955 was one of the first recipients of an Alumni Citation. The University bestowed upon Wickes an honorary doctor of arts degree in 1969. She returned to her alma mater on several occasions to teach, and, as an artist in residence, she performed in the 1968 on-campus production of fellow University alumnus Tennessee Williams' play "The Glass Menagerie."

Best known as a comic actress, Wickes also played many dramatic roles. She described herself as "an actress who can play comedy," and once said: "This ability to be able to deliver comedy lines with perfect accuracy and with exquisite timing is of maximum importance, and it is inbred. You either have it or you don't, and when you have it, you can play tragedy as well."

Among her film credits are several classics, including "The Man Who Came to Dinner," "White Christmas" and "The Trouble With Angels." She was a permanent member of nine television series, including "Make Room for Daddy." In recent years, in addition to her extensive television work, Wickes appeared in "Postcards From the Edge," "Little Women" and "Sister Act." Her last role, completed only weeks before her death, was the voice of a gargoyle in the animated feature film "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

For more information on the dedication ceremony, call 935-5495.

--Martha Everett

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