UW News

December 8, 2015

Treasured faculty member and theater professional, Sarah Nash Gates, loses battle with cancer

Sarah Nash Gates, former director of the UW School of Drama, died on Dec. 4.

Sarah Nash Gates

The College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Washington is saddened to lose one of its most prominent faculty members and a longtime leader in the Seattle theater community, Sarah Nash Gates. Gates passed away on Friday evening, December 4, surrounded by family and close friends.

There will be a memorial service for Gates at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, in Meany Hall, and the public is invited.

Most recently, Gates had been serving as Interim Divisional Dean of the Arts, coming out of retirement to do so. But, Gates made her greatest mark as Executive Director of the UW School of Drama, serving in this role for more than 20 years while also teaching costume design and costume history to generations of UW students who will continue to benefit from two endowed funds she created in the School of Drama – The Sarah Nash Gates Endowed Graduate Student Support Fund and the Sarah Nash Gates Endowed Production Support Fund.

“Sarah was a vibrant and inspiring presence within the College of Arts and Sciences and throughout the Seattle theater community,” said Robert Stacey, dean of the college and a longtime friend of Sarah’s. “It is hard to imagine Arts and Sciences or Seattle theater without her. Her legacy to both is enormous,” he added.

Beyond Seattle, Gates was nationally known as an expert in professional theater training and a talented costume designer. In the course of her long professional career, she designed for 5th Avenue Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Seattle Children’s Theatre, Seattle Opera and Pacific Performance Project. National venues that featured her work included the Denver Center Theatre Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Pennsylvania Opera Theatre, the Aspen Music Festival, and Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus.

Gates served as president of the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) from 1991-1994. She was the first woman and the first costume designer to hold that office. Gates also served three years as president of the University/Resident Theatre Association. In Seattle, she was a founding board member of the Theatre Puget Sound and also served on the board of the 5th Avenue Theatre.

Gates was raised in Boston, Massachusetts. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Boston University and went on to earn a Master of Arts degree from the University of California and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Boston University. Prior to coming to the University of Washington, Gates taught at SUNY-Fredonia and Stephens College.

Gates had an enduring impact on her students as a teacher, a role model and a friend. She formed lasting friendships in the theater community and in Maine, where she spent her summers.

Gates enriched her family with her energetic approach to life, including her niece, Rachel O’Toole, and her three nephews, Phillip O’Toole, Alexander Gates and Jason Gates. Gates is also survived by her brother, Steven Gates (and his wife Lauren) and her sister, Ann Gates O’Toole (and her husband Thomas).

Gates faced cancer just as she faced other challenges – with strength, dignity, and an exceptionally positive outlook. A memorial service is being planned for early next year and will be held on the University of Washington Seattle campus. Details will be forthcoming.

The family encourages donations be made in her memory to either The Sarah Nash Gates Endowed Graduate Student Support Fund or the Sarah Nash Gates Endowed Production Support Fund. Information on these funds is available at www.artsci.washington.edu/sngates or call 1-877-UWGIFTS.


For more information, contact Sam Read, director of external relations for the School of Drama, at 206-221-6797 or samread@uw.edu.