Marjorie Millar Luke 1928-2007
“Mama Luke” – a woman who was a mother to not only her own loving family, but to so many students she taught, inspired and mentored through her over 40 year career as an educator. This theatre was lovingly dedicated in her name by one of her students, and major donor to The Luke’s renovation, Anthony Edwards.
Marj and the wonderful team of educators she was quick to acknowledge, set the bar high for students at Santa Barbara Junior High, and then at San Marcos High. She was responsible for introducing the magic of theatre to countless young people – many who made careers in the arts. In this very auditorium, generations of kids were bitten by the theatre “bug” and their lives were changed forever.
Today the Marjorie Luke Theatre is a state-of-the-art youth-friendly performing arts venue that has been utilized by over 140 local arts and education organizations. Marj was a key part of creating this Theatre’s rich legacy and instilled pride and long-term respect for the arts in her students.
Marj embraced and nurtured the singers, dancers and actors, as well as the kids who did not want to be in the spotlight and found a safe haven in her technical theatre classes. Her stage crew students were often the real stars, creating elaborate sets, effects and costumes. Marj was able to see the transformation of this theatre, visiting during the renovation and twice more for the opening and second year anniversary celebration. She suffered a stroke in early 2007, and shortly after passed on to the big stage in the sky.
In his final letter to Marj, Rod Lathim wrote, “Your theatre inspires kids every day by giving them hope and encouragement, and a space that gives dignity and self-esteem to young artists. They try and work harder when they work in a wonderful space that is held sacred and with great care and love. None of this would exist today, had it not been for you, Mama Luke. Know this. Honor this. Take this to the bank, my friend.”
May we all be so lucky to be honored for our gifts and contributions before we pass. In February of 2004, after the Opening Gala of The Luke, Marj ventured down into the basement under the stage and, for the first time, added her signature to the building. She wrote, “Mama Luke was here.” Indeed, she was. And the world is a much better place because of her. We’ll keep the ghost light burning for you, Mama…