BRUSHY PRAIRIE — When Kristy Campbell was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Hoosier Award from Gov. Eric Holcomb in October it came as a big surprise to her family.
She was nominated for the award by a former student and Prairie Heights theater alumni Andrew Criswell.
The award is one of the highest awards given, at the discretion of the governor, to Hoosiers that bring honor to the state through character and accomplishments. The family was told she is the first recipient of the award posthumously.
Campbell passed away in August 2004 after battling leukemia that was diagnosed in 2002.
Campbell was a 31-year educator, teaching English and speech at Prairie Heights. She also was involved with many school activities, including the theater and drama department.
Her husband, Jerry, said she was instrumental in the design and construction of the Brice G. Diehl Performing Arts Center.
“The only place for performances (prior) was the stage in the gym, and she had to fight to get it,” he said. “They were only able to do one show a year.”
The performing arts center opened in 1991 with a floor and layout designed by Campbell. She also took the drama department from one show a year to three, doing three shows annually on a budget of just $3,000.
Her husband built a lot of the early sets until she got the approval for a theater trades class to build them, although Jerry still helped a lot, as did other parents involved with the drama program.
“It was a community concept, for sure,” he said.
Her students were so important to her, and in turn she was important to each of them. Many have gone from Prairie Heights onto larger stages across the country either as performers or directors.
Campbell was the first high school director in the country to obtain the rights from Disney to perform “Beauty and the Beast” on a high school stage. It was one of her favorite shows, ever, along with “Curious Savage” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
The 2017-2018 school year drama season has already seen “Joseph” return to the Prairie Heights stage, and will see “Curious Savage” and “Beauty and the Beast” return as well, as director Corrine Reed is dedicating this season’s shows all to Campbell.
The redone stage in the Brice G. Diehl Performing Arts Center has also been renamed to the Kristy Campbell Memorial Stage in her honor.
Russ Helper, a colleague of Campbell’s, was the one that started the campaign to have the stage dedicated to Campbell. He proposed the idea to the school board two years ago, said Jerry, and kept after the board until it was finally approved.
During her tenure, Campbell directed over 50 shows at Prairie Heights.
At the award ceremony in October, Jerry said a number of students spoke about how much she meant to them over the years.
Shortly after her death, Jerry and the family established a scholarship fund in her name.