The Bud Kerwin Jordan College of the Arts Dance Scholarship

During a reunion in October 2017, a group of Butler Ballet alumni from the 1970s and early ’80s decided they wanted to honor one of their favorite professors, Bud Kerwin, by creating a scholarship in his name. Imagine their surprise when they found out that another alumni group had started a Bud Kerwin scholarship years earlier.

So they happily added to the fund and helped endow the Bud Kerwin Jordan College of the Arts Dance Scholarship.

“Bud was a big, big force in driving a lot of students into their dance careers,” says Tim Hubbard, Master of Dance ’76, who helped found Indianapolis Ballet Theatre and spent 24 years with that company.

“Bud just had a way of getting you to express your beauty, not just hit a pose,” says Nancy Antenucci ’80, who spent her career as a choreographer, mostly in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area.

Kerwin, who taught ballet and jazz at Butler from 1971 to 1996, died September 1, 2021. He was 86.

Kerwin is remembered for his joyous approach to life and dance. Anyone who knew him can still repeat his favorite phrase: “To live is to dance and to dance is to live.”

“Everything with Bud was a dance,” says Michelle Jarvis, who was a senior when Kerwin joined the faculty. She later taught alongside him, then became chair of the Dance Department and retired from Butler in 2021 as Associate Provost. “No matter what you were doing, it was a dance. To dance was to live and to live was to dance. That was his way of life.”

Jarvis and other alumni started the scholarship to honor Kerwin, who was part of a much-beloved faculty that included George Verdak, Peggy Dorsey, William Glenn, Martha Cornick, and Betty Gour.

“They really took you under their wings and tried to help you,” Hubbard says. “With Bud, if you would open up as a vessel of training and technique, he would always try to push you beyond what you thought you could do or dreamt you could do.”

Antenucci, who came to Butler from Holidaysburg, Pennsylvania, says she chose Butler in part because a family friend raved about the quality of the faculty.

She remembers one lesson that Kerwin imparted. He’d just taught the class a combination of steps, “and we were all pretty cocky, thinking that we hit it,” Antenucci says. “Afterwards, he looked at us and put his hands on his head and said, ‘I’m glad you all did it, but I would like you to dance as if you were dancing for the king and if he was disappointed, you would be killed.’ I never forgot that because I thought, ‘Even if you think you’re technically doing it, if your heart is not into it, you’re boring your audience.’”

Kerwin established lifelong relationships with his students and his fellow faculty members. Jarvis says students “were like family to him,” so she’s pleased that his name will carry on in perpetuity on a scholarship for a deserving dance student.

“He was very close to a lot of people,” she says, “and I think a lot of us are missing him.”

Harry J. “Bud” Kerwin, Jr. was born in Toledo, Ohio, on December 17, 1934. He graduated from Woodward High School in Toledo in 1954 and was inducted into the school’s Alumni Hall of Fame in 1998. His first theatrical performance, as a freshman, was alongside senior Jameel Farah, better known now as actor Jamie Farr. He was educated at the school of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the International School in New York, taught at Woodward High School in Toledo, and directed his own school of dance and company in Toledo—the Kerwin Ballet Theater—before becoming the Artistic Director of the Columbus (Ohio) Ballet. He joined Butler in 1971 and for nearly 20 years danced the role of Herr Drosselmeyer in The Nutcracker.