George Peters, Greg Reuter, Gretel Geist...Gone Too Soon


"They lived and laughed and loved and left." - James Joyce, Finnegan's Wake

During the 2014-15 academic year, the Department of Theatre saw the passing of three of its own, one of whom was also faculty in the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages.

  • George Peters, former department chair and retired professor of German, as well as former chair of the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages at MSU, passed away in Oregon on July 8, 2014
  • Greg Reuter, assistant professor of Musical Theatre and Choreography and 20-year veteran of the Broadway stage, died suddenly in East Lansing on December 18, 2014
  • Professor Emerita Gretel Geist Rutledge passed away on Sunday, January 11, at Munson Hospice House in Lansing

George Peters

George will be remembered as a wonderful teacher and mentor, a dedicated scholar, a caring and effective leader, and a dear colleague to all who had the pleasure of working with him.

George Peters received his B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. in German from Stanford University. He came to Michigan State University in 1989 to chair the Department of Linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian and African Languages after spending 19 years at the University of New Mexico, where he was named Teacher of the Year. He also served as Chair of the MSU Department of Theatre for five years and twice as the Resident Director of the Academic Year in Freiburg Program.

George distinguished himself as a scholar of the 19th century German author Heinrich Heine and was finishing his third book on Heine at the time of his death. Graduate and undergraduate students respected George for his excellent teaching, his keen understanding of German culture, his thoughtful feedback and meticulous preparation. The range and volume of his scholarly activity were impressive. His 2003 article, Teaching Deeper German Culture in a Proficiency-Based Curriculum, was awarded Best Article of the Year in the journal Die Unterrichtspraxis/Teaching German. Never one to rest on his laurels, George recently restructured his third-year German culture course as a hybrid course.

George was highly regarded by colleagues in German as a tireless advocate for the German language, having received the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit, First Class, of the Federal Republic of Germany; the Order of Merit of the Republic of Austria; as well as awards from the American Association of Teachers of German and the Goethe Institute.

Lead donor, retired faculty and former associate dean in our college, Pat Paulsell, and her husband, Don, created the George F. Peters Scholarship Fund in Peters' honor and memory. Other primary funders were George's widow Rosie and former interim dean and retired faculty member Pat McConeghy. Former College of Arts and Letters Dean Karin Wurst also contributed to the fund. The scholarship is for students wishing to do the College's yearlong study abroad in Freiburg, Germany, where George taught for many years.

Greg Reuter

A 20-year veteran of the Broadway stage, Greg was in numerous Broadway and Los Angeles casts, including Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Chicago (Billy Flynn), Fosse (principal dancer), Bells Are Ringing (2001 revival), Aida (Radames), The Producers (Leo Bloom and Carmen Ghia), and the original Broadway casts of Monty Python’s Spamalot and Shrek The Musical. Heard on numerous TV and radio jingles as a session singer, Greg trained at Western Michigan University (BFA in Music Theatre with honors) and at the Atlantic Theatre Company (NYC).

Greg worked as a backup singer for Liza Minnelli; performed on the esteemed Tony Awards broadcast three times, and lent his voice to three Grammy Award-winning cast albums. Greg’s passion for education took him around the country to teach master classes for the nation’s marquee music theatre collegiate programs. He was also a senior faculty member for Broadway University, and taught and designed curriculum for Camp Broadway and Broadway Classroom.

As a professor, Reuter worked intimately inside MSU circles while also reaching out across the state and country. He taught three full-time courses in the department: a musical theatre class, a dance improvisation class and a dance technique class focusing on jazz.

Reuter’s connections to Broadway helped make him a wildly successful addition to MSU’s theatre department. Although his time at MSU was short, Reuter brought passion and progress to the theatre department. Using his Broadway contacts, Greg organized a mentor program that paired individual MSU students with professionals currently working on Broadway.

The mentor program and the connections it created will serve as a powerful legacy for Greg Reuter within the MSU Department of Theatre.

Gretel Geist Rutledge

Professor Emerita of Production Design: Costume, Gretel Geist Rutledge received her BA in foreign languages from the University of Michigan and her MA in theatre design with advanced work in graduate study at Michigan State University.

Over the course of her career, including 38 years at MSU from 1969 to 2007, Professor Geist Rutledge designed sets and costumes for more than 100 productions and served as design consultant for the principal theaters in the state, as well as theaters in New York. Gretel’s costume designs for Henry V, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the award-winning Mikado involved innovative techniques and use of materials. Her scene design for Hamlet received a certificate of merit from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) Region III in 2001.

In 2003, Geist Rutledge’s costume design for Oklahoma! received a Thespie Award from the International Thespian Society. Most recently, Gretel received the Oscar Brockett Outstanding Teacher of Theatre in Higher Education Award from the American Theatre of Higher Educationin 2014.

Gretel was a member of The United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) and its Costume Commission, the Costume Society, and the executive committee of KCACTF Region III where she served as Michigan state chair for four years. She co-founded the award-winning Summer Circle Theatre at Michigan State University with her husband, former professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre Frank C. Rutledge, who passed away in 2008.

After she retired from MSU, Gretel became a working artist, focusing on printmaking and fiber arts. Her prints were selected for various shows and her artwork is in permanent and/or private collections in Michigan, Wisconsin, Chicago, New York City, Canada, and Brazil. In 2014, Gretel mounted an exhibit in her “home” Grove Gallery & Studios in East Lansing, titled A Retrospective: Twenty Years of Paper, Prints, and Textiles . Gretel was a founding member of the Grove Gallery artists’ co-op.

It is safe to say that George, Greg and Gretel will be dearly missed by all who knew them, none more so than their friends, students and colleagues in the Department of Theatre and the College of Arts and Letters at MSU.

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