BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - A dedication ceremony and reception was held on Saturday, Nov. 21 for the newly named Kenneth Stiefel Theatre at Gov. Livingston's Davis Hall prior to the Hilltop Players' evening production of Harvey.
A large crowd was in attendance including Ken's family; Gov. Livingston Principal Rob Nixon; Superintendent Judy Rattner; Board of Education members John Sincaglia, Helen Kirsch, Dr. Gerry Crisonino, Doug Reinstein; C.A.S.T. members; and current and past members of Daddy's Crew and Hilltop Players.
Ken Stiefel, the Technical Director at Gov. Livingston High School, passed away last October following a more than two-year battle with cancer.
The legacy of Ken Stiefel was 24 years of passion for the kids and theater, said Joe Voorhees, Gov. Livingston Television Production teacher. The theater was Stiefel's home away from home. He had trained hundreds of students that he referred to as his adoptive children, said Voorhees. "This is figuratively and literally the house that 'Daddy' built."
"My dad loved working here," said Allison Highton, Ken's daughter. "This was never a job, this was his passion. He did this because he loved being with the kids. The students kept him young. He had a way with teenagers. He found your niche, he found what you were gifted with and he empowered you."
Stiefel acted as a mentor to many students, especially to Tony Di Nizo, a freshman at Ithaca College. Stage crew changed his life. "Working with him [Stiefel] truly inspired me," said Di Nizo.
Di Nizo approached the Board of Education in June requesting consideration to rename the Gov. Livingston auditorium in honor of his mentor. "Seeing Mr. Stiefel's name above those theater doors is absolutely amazing," he said. "For all those that made this possible, I thank you. This theater here at GL is Mr. Stiefel's legacy. He built this program and he made it what it is today. It is amazing to finally see Daddy's legacy honored at his home away from home."
The evening was made possible from the "army of students [known as Daddy's Crew]", the Gov. Livingston Administration, Board of Education and Superintendent Judy Rattner, C.A.S.T., Hilltop Players and Peter Illis.
"This night is about one man and one man only, Ken Stiefel. Daddy, as we called him, was that person for advise, for help, or anything," said Illis '17, who created the dedication plaque inside the theater as an Eagle Scout project.
The story [of Daddy's Crew] started in 1990 when Jeff [Ken's son] was a freshman, said Allison. Ken volunteered, and Jeff and his friends called him Daddy.and the crew would call him Daddy and it caught on.
For today's crew to still be Daddy's Crew, after 24 years, "is a testament to the legacy that he left in these walls with these kids," said Allison.
"Ken's legacy will go on forever. -- His real meaning and legacy is in the lives, in hearts of those students he has touched through all of these many years. We are very proud to dedicate this auditorium in the name of Ken Stiefel," said Dr. Gerry Crisonino, Board of Education member.
Gov. Livingston Principal Rob Nixon reminded the audience that Ken was a volunteer. "Ken was here for the kids. It was never for the money or for the job. He was the heart and soul of this community," said Nixon.
"He was a true inspiration to everyone who knew him, he was a constant reminder of why we do what we do," Nixon said.
Dedication of the Kenneth Stiefel Theatre by GLTV Production.