School 36

Ronald L. Emmons

October 1, 1938 ~ March 20, 2022 (age 83)


Ronald L. Emmons, educator, drama director, and playwright, died on March 20, 2022, at Boston Medical Center from complications after a fall. Born on October 1 1938, he was the son of the late Gertrude Knott Nowlen and stepson of William Nowlen.  Ron, who was born and grew up in Long Branch, New Jersey, graduated from Long Branch High School and Monmouth University and earned a M.Ed. degree from Bridgewater State College.  Ron taught high school English and drama at Shore Regional High School and Neptune High School in New Jersey, and then for thirty years at Cohasset High School in Cohasset, Massachusetts, where he also coached girls’ track.


From 1985-1993, Ron taught and directed plays at the Choate Rosemary Hall Summer Theater School, which led to the development and publication of What You Will, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night suitable for high school productions. As a director, Ron’s productions were regular finalists at the Massachusetts Drama Festival. Ron served as president of both the Massachusetts High School Drama Guild and the New England Drama Council.


Ron was fascinated by England and its culture. In 1996-97 he was selected for the Fulbright Exchange Program and spent an academic year teaching at the Southend School for Girls. He and his wife, Linda French, returned to England numerous times. They walked the Coastal Path in Cornwall, researched 18th-century astronomers, and spent happy times with friends in their local pub.


After retirement, Ron accompanied Linda to Bloomington, Illinois, when she accepted a professorship at Illinois Wesleyan University. Ron’s talents were soon recognized and put to use, first as a director and board member at Heartland Theatre Company, and then as an adjunct instructor for first-year writing classes and drama literature at IWU.


Ron’s passions were many and varied. He was inspired by the plays of Shakespeare and the lyrics of Bob Dylan, and he passed that inspiration on to students. He ran five marathons and was an early supporter of women’s sports. He was a regular presence at sporting events both at Cohasset High School and Illinois Wesleyan.


He is survived by his wife of 23 years, Linda French; his daughters Jenna Emmons of Scituate, Massachusetts and Maria Emmons of Bloomington, Illinois; his stepdaughter Susanna French and her wife Lauren James of West Hartford, Connecticut; and his brother and sister-in-law Sydney and Margo Emmons of Venice, Florida.


A celebration of Ron’s life will be held later in the year.

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