Carol Mayo Jenkins retires at UT; ‘We need more people like Carol,’ says friend and acting colleague

Actors Carol Mayo Jenkins and Michael Cerveris at a dinner to celebrate her retirement.

Carol Mayo Jenkins, who has been an artist in residence in the University of Tennessee’s Department of Theatre for 22 years, retired earlier this month but told those gathered to celebrate that she’d still be around, hopefully performing at the Clarence Brown Theatre.

The veteran stage and television actress was feted by fellow thespians – in person and in videotaped tributes — during a dinner at Bridgewater Place in West Knoxville. She was visibly touched when her “Fame” television series co-star, actress Debbie Allen, announced via video a gift of $10,000 to an endowment established in Jenkins’ name. That fund will be used to assist outstanding undergraduate acting students at UT.

Tony Award-winning actor Michael Cerveris attended in person and praised Jenkins for her commitment to teaching. “We need more people like Carol,” he said. “She brings optimism, hope and is forward-looking. Plus she brings history and a grounding in tradition.”

Actress Jane Alexander, via videotape, also praised Jenkins as a teacher. “Teaching is the greatest gift we as actors can give,” she said.

Jenkins, who has been a working actor for more than 60 years, said she has survived “the longest fear of performing, demanding directors, long hours in cold theaters and a few really terrible leading men!” But, she added, “I never lost the incredible sense of wonder for the profession and the theater.”

“It’s not about being rich and famous,” she said. “It’s about working in the theater and believing in the theater. The theater influences — and maybe even directs — where we are going as a civilization.”

She said the evening meant more to her “than any acting award I could ever receive.”

Actress Dale Dickey, center, with Susan Creswell and Tom Cervone, the managing director of the Clarence Brown Theatre.

From left, Misty Anderson, Jed Diamond and Kenneth Martin, the new artistic director of the Clarence Brown Theatre and head of the Department of Theatre. (Photo by Shelly Payne)

Lauren Roark, left, with Terry and Jeni Lamm Weber, and Katie Lupica, right.

From left, Rachel Darden, Jed Diamond and Casey Sams.

Neil and Maureen Dunn McBride.

Ted Flickinger and Julie Howard.

Susan Creswell, left, with Marianne Custer, the longtime head of costume design at Clarence Brown Theatre.

The beef tenderloin biscuits with tomato jam were delicious passed appetizers.

From left, Develyn Jayan, Clay Cooper, Yashashvi Choudhary, Gabriela Bulka, Katie Cunningham, Denzel Dejournette, Sammy Pontello and Andante Petti-Homme.

Scott Bird, left, and Michael Higdon.

From left, Ethan Graham Roeder, and Joe and Shelly Payne.

Margie Nichols and Alan Carmichael.

Kensi Burton, left, and Lindsey Collins of Bridgewater Place.

Becca and Will Brewer, left, with Alexander Waters.

Tom Cervone delivering welcoming remarks.

Michael Cerveris.

David Alley and Katie Cunningham.

Jane Alexander on video.

Debbie Allen on video.

Debbie Allen, left, and Carol Mayo Jenkins from “Fame” days.

Carol Mayo Jenkins was surprised by the announcement of the endowment fund!

Carol Mayo Jenkins making remarks.



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5 Responses to Carol Mayo Jenkins retires at UT; ‘We need more people like Carol,’ says friend and acting colleague

  1. Alan Carmichael, on September 28th, 2023 at 3:21 pm said:

    As I said on Facebook, it was a great event honoring a wonderful career in acting and teaching. It was clear from her friends’ remarks that Carol earned high marks and respect in her field.

  2. Carol Mayo Jenkins, on September 28th, 2023 at 3:58 pm said:

    I am so honored to have made the Blue Streak! Thank you so much for being there, Cynthia. It was an extraordinary evening!

  3. Cynthia Moxley, on September 28th, 2023 at 4:19 pm said:

    Carol: Alan and I are so proud to know you! We respect your talent so, so much. Happy to get to see you in our lovely little town. Thanks for everything you do to make Knoxville, UT and your profession better!

  4. Jennifer Snelling, on October 3rd, 2023 at 12:18 pm said:

    I had Carol as a voice teacher for a very brief time at Stella Adler Academy and I loved having her! If it weren’t for her I might not feel so authentic as a person. She had me perform Titania’s monologue to Oberon in class and it’s still one of my favorites. Congratulations, Carol! Maybe we’ll cross paths again someday soon.

  5. Cynthia Moxley, on October 3rd, 2023 at 12:37 pm said:

    Jennifer: What a sweet remembrance. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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