KSC Mourns the Passing of Vaughn West

Long-serving adjunct faculty member and alum Vaughn West passed away unexpectedly on May 17th. He came to Keene State in 1992 and has taught in the Theater Department ever since. Professor West taught courses in acting and in integrative studies and directed many shows both at Keene State College and within the region. He received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, did graduate work at Brandeis, and earned post-baccalaureate teaching certification from Keene State College. He was ever able to bring his love of the theater, and his true-life experience from acting in New York,  and make his classrooms come alive. Prof. West is married to Susan Ericson-West, the Grant and Contract Administrator in the Office of Sponsored Projects and Research. His sons are Evan and James.

It has been requested that in lieu of flowers, gifts be made in memory of Mr. West to the New Hampshire Dance Institute, 29 Center Street, Keene, NH. or to the Vaughn West Program Fund in Theatre and Dance at Keene State College. Gifts may be made payable to Keene State College with “West Program Fund” noted on the memo line and mailed to Keene State College, 229 Main Street, MS 2701, Keene NH 03435. Calling hours, a time to gather and remember, are scheduled for Wednesday, May 23, from 5–7 p.m. at the Fletcher Funeral Home in Keene (33 Marlboro St., 603-352-4541).

If you knew Vaughn, please submit a comment. And make sure you read the wonderful, heartfelt comments others have left. And there are more on the KSC Facebook page.

48 thoughts on “KSC Mourns the Passing of Vaughn West

  1. I was Vaughn West’s drama teacher when he was in high school. Later, we both ended up in New York as actors. He was a dear friend and an amazing talent. I am deeply saddened at his passing. My deepest sympathies to his wife and family and to the Keene community.

  2. Vaughn was a great professor! I enjoyed his class very much while I was student at KSC. I appreciated his humor, wisdom and LOVE of Theatre.

    Interestingly so, I saw his wife last night and I thought of some of the fun acting games Vaughn used to do with us in the classroom.

    May he rest in peace.

  3. One of my favorite profs from undergrad. He was an amazing actor, and an even better story teller. He was a joy to be around and this is such a loss to the world. My best to his wife and boys. Thanks for sharing him with us all.

  4. My heart is broken. Truly a tragedy and a loss. He made his students feel loved and important. He make his love of theatre come to life and transformed every life that had the fortune of knowing him. May he be at rest. RIP

  5. This is so very sad. Vaughn was a great man and a wonderful mentor. He brought out the best in many of us. I remember fondly, long conversations about nothing at all- he always listened and gave thoughtful advice and guidance. My deepest sympathy goes out to his family…he will be missed.

  6. Professor Vaughn West was an unforgettable teacher and mentor. I will always remember him for his enthusiasm and love for theater. He taught me to think about “Why” we act as a character, not “How” we act and I will carry the acting skills that he gave me, with me forever.MWCC and Keene State will never be the same without him. I am devastated by this terrible news. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends at this time. RIP Vaughn West. 🙁

  7. I had the pleasure of working with Vaughn about 6 years ago. He was an incredible talent, and a truly wonderful person. So sad to hear of his passing. My thoughts are with his family and friends

  8. This is a complete shock. Vaughn was possibly the best drama teacher I’ve ever had. I learned so much from him and he was a great teacher, mentor, and friend to all his students. The theatre department, and indeed KSC as a whole will not be the same without his ever-uplifting presence.

    He once taught me that the most intimate bond two people can share, outside of physical contact, is a meeting of the eyes. Vaughn, I know your eyes are looking over all of us now. Rest in peace, my friend.

  9. He was my younger brother, and I am so sad to lose him way too soon. But the many loving comments here are a real comfort. I can tell you for certain–he loved acting and teaching acting, as much or even more than his students say he did. In fact I saw him just two days ago, and we talked about his plans for teaching next year and the wonderful new ideas he was going to bring to his classes. He was so excited, he hadn’t lost any of his enthusiasm. If anything, he was more excited than ever to be teaching. Thank you for all the kind wishes and sympathies.

  10. I was heartbroken to hear of Vaughn’s passing. He was inspirational, charismatic, talented, and full of heart and sharp wit. Ksc was blessed to have such a talent on the faculty of the arts department. I consider myself lucky to have known Vaughn. In 2006 we acted alongside each other in Keene State’s first musical in a long time, “Urinetown.” He taught me a lot and made the stage a comfortable place to be. I owe a lot to him. My thoughts are with his wife and kids as they mourn their loss. Thank you Vaughn for being a part of my life path.

  11. I was heartbroken to hear about Vaughn’s passing. He was an inspirational teacher and genuinely kind person. I feel lucky to have had the chance to work with him on “Urinetown,” which was my first musical ever. Vaughn made the stage a comfortable place to be and taught me a lot about what it means to be a good actor. My heart goes out to Vaughn’s wife, children, and family as they mourn this terrible loss. I also thank them for sharing this wonderful man with the students and staff of Keene State.

  12. My condolences to Vaughn’s family. I’ve been trying to express how sad I am all day, but I’ve been unable to find the right words. All I keep thinking about, however, is how no one else is going to be able to take a class with him; no more students will be able to know how great he was…

  13. Hearing this news today has made me so very sad. Vaughn was not only an amazingly talented actor and teacher, he was one of the few people you meet that change your life forever. I will never forget all the inspiration and optimism he gave me, even in the worst of days. I can’t wait to meet again in the skies above… SO much love I send to you.

  14. I am an even older brother than Steve. I remember like yesterday his coming home from the hospital, red little face bundled in blankets. He was on stage from the moment he walked, and talked. Our parents lived vicariously through his exploits, and he injected us all with humor, and drama. We have all been fortunate to have known him. I was fortunate to have shared his love. Such expressions of respect and affection as I read here are heart warming at this sad time.

  15. Vaughn West, you got me into The Actor’s Studio Drama School. All the work you did with me, you helped me get into one of the best drama grad programs in the nation. You supported every one of us. I will always remember doing The Dining Room with you, Acting I and II…I’ll never forget the day I found out about you doing Agnes of God and when we both saw each other after the announcement. You made me laugh so hard, but then really made me cry. You said such beautiful words to me saying I was going on to bigger and better things and I’m going to do it all. My heart is so broken right now, but trust me I will never forget you and the things you have done for me.

  16. Vaughn was easily my favorite professor at Keene State College. When I arrived on campus four years ago, he was my first ever acting professor for my Acting I class. He taught me so much, and made sure I never felt overwhelmed by any of it. He was always willing to lend a listening ear, never afraid to befriend his students or colleagues, and was always there if anyone needed him.

    I also had the pleasure of working on my last show at Keene, which was “Agnes of God.” I learned even more in that one show and had the time of my life. And when I thanked him for giving me the chance to finally be on a stage, he thanked me for making it easy on him, too. Vaughn, you were a teacher, an inspiration, but above all, you were a friend. And to think, just three weeks ago I was standing with you in the Wright Lobby, terrified about graduating and you were making it alright. My thoughts and heart go out to his wife and kids, whom I have met multiple times. Rest easy, Vaughn. And keep an eye on us, okay?

  17. Professor Vaughn West was one of the greatest leaders I have had the pleasure of meeting. I was fortunate enough to have him as a professor for my intro to acting class here at KSC. Vaughn was absolutely phenominal at inspiring others, myself included. He opened up my eyes to the world of theater and acting simply by channelling his passion for the art into the classroom. He will be truly missed, but his impact on the community will live on. I wish his family and friends the best during these troubling times.

  18. What sad news for his family, the KSC community, and the community at large.
    I had the opportunity to serve as musical director for Vaughn when he directed Damn Yankees at MWCC and Starting Here, Starting Now at KSC. Vaughn was a joy as a colleague – very witty in his comments; always searching for ways to make things work so that the production could be the best it could be; very respectful of the individual abilities that everyone involved brought with them to the production; highly organized; very insightful into the subtleties of the production; and, very creative in his use of all the time and resources available (limited as some may have been on occasion) to the end of making the production the best that it could be.
    When Vaughn and I met on occasion, usually in Hannafords or crossing paths outside of Redfern when when he was leaving a rehearsal and I was going to one, we would speak of how much we would like to work together again and when that opportunity might present itself.
    Another time…
    My sympathy goes out to Susie, and their boys, Evan and Jamie.

  19. A shock and a tragedy. A man that brought so much joy to those around him, and who challenged us to grow and achieve our potential. He will be sorely missed and in my thoughts always. The deepest sympathies to his family.

  20. Vaugh was my student teacher at Keene High School many years ago. He inspired so many students, even in that short time. Our relationship became more than teacher/student; we became friends.
    It saddens me so to hear of this terrible loss. He was so bright and animated in class that I often forgot he wasn’t a seasoned teacher. He loved the kids, and they knew it.
    My sympathy goes out to his family, as I know he will be missed deeply. God Bless.

  21. I had the pleasure of working with Vaughn in Urinetown at Keene and at the Mount.
    What an extraordinary actor and singer!
    I have also coached some of his theatre students at KSC and what a great teacher he was to them. I will truly miss Vaughn!
    Blessings to his family.

  22. Vaughn was a bright light, filled with positive energy, spirit and joy. We will miss the extraordinary talents he shared with so many. Much love to his family.

  23. My dear colleague, Vaughn, was so very lucky to have been able to create a life that made him exquisitely happy. He loved his job, his students, the opportunities to act and direct- both tragedy and comedy-(he was hysterically funny in The Importance of Being Earnest and terrifying in Better Living) and all of it was the sweeter for being a husband and father. Watching his family take to the stage was a great joy and a source of great pride. Life was the richer for embracing the magic of the theatre. Those who knew Vaughn are each of us the richer for having been touched by this very generous human being.

  24. Vaughn was a good friend, fellow Buckeye, and equally avid Reds fan. I loved working with him several years back in “The Importance of Being Earnest” (a tour de force for Vaughn). He was a great teacher, actor, and director, and I shall miss him. My deepest condolences to Susie and their sons.

  25. Vaughn was a star, a true star. His passion for teaching and acting burst out of him. I am so honored to have worked with and learned from him. His smile and energy have always been with me even years after leaving KSC and I will continue to hold them close. My deepest sympathy to his family. How lucky we all were to have someone like Vaughn in our lives.

  26. I am truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and acknowledgement for my husband Vaughn. As others have noted, he LOVED what he was able to do as a teacher, director and performer, and while his life was far too brief, he considered himself most blessed. It is of enormous comfort to us to hear about the lives he has touched and difference he has made. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  27. Vaughn was an excellent professor. I loved going to class. He was always funny (he had a hilarious sarcasm about him ). I learned quite a bit from his class. He always connected well with the students and I enjoyed talking to him after class. He had a passion about him that was wonderful to see. My condolences to his family. He was a gem at Keene State and he will be missed.

  28. I can’t believe Vaughn is gone. I love working with him and having him as a professor. He will be missed!

  29. Vaughn was a great professor. He had an outstanding personality that always stuck with me. So from Bermuda I am sending my condolences to his family and friends. May he Rest in Peace. ** You will be missed but never forgotten.**

  30. Vaughn was extremely versatile. He was at home in all styles of theatre, whether as an actor, director or teacher. I was fortunate to have been able to work with him when he was the narrator in a performance of Stravinsky’s “The Soldier’s Tale.” He was impressive, as always, and since that time I valued every opportunity to see his shows and have the all too brief chats. I will miss his perspectives on work and on life.

  31. One rarely comes across someone like Vaughn in their lifetime. His acting classes always invigorated me and inspired me to earn a MFA in acting. I liked how he didn’t judge his students based on their experience or ability. Sixteen years after having him as a professor at Keene, I had the privilege of working with him again at Wachusett Community College this past fall. His students for the most part had very little theater experience, but you wouldn’t know that after they worked with Vaughn. His passion for theater was contagious and it definitely showed in his student’s eyes. Vaughn is a class act, he will be missed, but his passionate spirit will always be with us-on stage and off. Sending much love and prayers to his friends and family.

  32. I took Vaughn’s class as a freshman at KSC back in 2006, and it remains one of the most eye-opening, enjoyable courses I ever had the pleasure of participating in. He was a sincerely great guy and a wonderful professor, teaching us with a combination of candidness and kindness that made for rewarding insight on a daily basis.

    My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  33. I didn’t go to Keene State for theater, but I did take a low level acting class with him and had a fantastic time learning from him. It was always a pleasure seeing him around campus.

  34. I just read this sad news! Vaughn was an amazing acting professor and I loved taking his class. I only took one class with him but his love, humor, and creativity for acting touched everyone who studied under him. He was so full of life, and he will always be remembered. My heart and prayers go out to his family. RIP Vaughn West!

  35. I first met Vaughn in 1992 when I was a junior at KSC and acting in the numerous theater department productions. Vaughn was just getting involved in the theater at KSC at the time. I had a chance to act with him in SCAPIN, and on several other occasions in one-acts and later productions. In SCAPIN, he was so funny, creative, and he brought every scene he was in alive. My friends and I, only in our late teens or early 20s at the time, were all blown away by how talented and charismatic Vaughn was. I think I speak for many of them when I say we all really liked Vaughn and were thrilled to act with him. He was a wonderful mentor and one of the people that made it so fun to be involved in the wonderful KSC theater program at that time. When I heard of his passing I was deeply affected. I was terribly saddened by the news that he had died, even though I haven’t seen Vaughn in many years, but I remember him fondly. My heart goes out to his family.

  36. I still remember the first day of class I had with him – I just took an acting course for a gen-ed requirement. He kept telling us to drop the class ASAP, because he wanted us to commit to it. It was that caring and that humor and spirit I will miss forever. Best wishes for his family and regrets for the generations who won’t get the privelege to learn from him….

  37. Such a terrible loss not only to Keene State College but to the Keene Community. I remember Vaughn hosting the “Game Show” during our Founder’s Day event two years ago, and all the laughter and joy he added to our luncheon. He will be remembered with many fond memories. My thoughts, prayers, and love go out to Susie and her two sons during this difficult time in their lives.

  38. There just aren’t adequate words to express the enormity of the loss to our Theatre and Dance family. Vaughn was my valued colleague, my cohort in Musical Theatre (LITTLE SHOP and URINETOWN), and my friend. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife and children…

  39. I knew Vaughn both as a colleague as KSC and as the father of Evan, one of my daughter’s best friend. It was always a pleasure to see him, he never failed to bring a smile to my face. The last time I saw him was two weeks ago in the library. When I complimented him on his great baseball cap, he told me about a website with wonderful Brooklyn Dodger gear. He was so full of life and so much fun. I can’t believe he’s gone.

  40. What a loss to the Keene State Community. Vaughn was a genuinly nice and gracious man. I always looked forward to his visits to my office to order his textbooks in person. He always had time to chat about this or that for a few minutes after he placed his order and then he would leave as quietly as he came. Truly a nice man. I will miss those visits, Vaughn.
    My thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.

  41. I feel so deeply the loss of Vaughan. I will miss our short, usually funny, conversations as we passed through the lobby. We spoke, about 2 days, before he died. I was complaining about turning 70 and having 3 stents put in my heart in February. We joked about getting old is better than the alternative. We laughed about living every day, etc. Vaughan was just one of those people you are privileged to know. I will also miss his quirky attitude toward golf, teaching me not to take it too seriously. Vaughan. you went way too soon, but you affected so many lives. My thoughts are with your whole family and extended family. RIP

  42. Vaughn West was my officemate for years in Joslin House and more recently had an office a floor below me in Carroll House. I’ll share and observation of his from my last conversation with him I can remember. He had just seen the recent production of Death of a Salesman. He said he felt the difference between Dustin Hoffman’s Willy Loman and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Willy Loman was that Dustin Hoffman’s Loman thought he was smart and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Loman thought he didn’t need to be smart.

  43. A memory, like a picture, can be worth a thousand words. I once saw Vaughn on a beautiful Summer day, standing beside his son Jamie – each swinging a golf club on the driving range. I realized at that moment I could be a better father. Susie, Evan and Jamie, please know you’re in our thoughts and prayers.

  44. What sad news–but a time of reflection as we all share good memories of Vaughn. Although I never had a chance to take a class with him during my many years at KSC, I remember working with him during the production of “Little Shop of Horrors” as well as acting with him during The Edge Ensemble’s production of “the Scottish play” a few years back. His one scene as the drunken porter brought the house down every night.

    We also shared experiences portraying the costumed character Garfield. I was doing a gig as Garfield at the time, and he was a trove of good advice and hilarious stories.

    My heart goes out to his family–may all our memories bring you comfort. RIP, Vaughn, as you take the big stage in the sky…

  45. It’s been many years since my days at KSC Theatre, but I can still remember Vaughn coming into class and starting off telling his famous stories. It got us interested and kept us laughing. He was a gifted man with many talents in our community and over the years I had the honor of seeing his brilliant work on the stage. I most remember his terrific work as Tom in “Better Living” in 1996, and as Roy Cohen in “Angels in America” in 1999. He took their characters to a new level and ones I will always remember. My thoughts and prayers are with his family at this difficult time and will always have his memory and his motivated spirit with me on each new show I am involved with. Bless you on your next act Vaughn!

  46. Vaughn’s brightness will be missed by all of us who were privileged to know him both off stage and on. In all our conversations, his love of his family and his passion for his profession were clear and radiant. Our community is the poorer for his passing. My heartfelt sympathy to Susie and their sons on their loss.

  47. I had Vaughn this last semester for art of imagination. I feel so priveleged to have been in his class. I got to see him perform in The Pirates of Penzance at the Colonial, which was wonderful. He was so great to talk to and he always had a story to tell. His enthusiasm and bright personality in class was always nice. He made me appreciate the theatre world so much more and introduced me to many new things. I will miss him so much. My deepest sympathy goes to his family.

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