Helen and Dr. Robert Ghent; Helen with family. Helen Ghent is the Sudbury Theatre Centre’s 2016 honouree. A gala event to laud the community leader was held June 8 . Ghent has been involved with the STC since 1971. Photos by Marie Whitehead. from sudbury.com
As a fan of live theatre, Helen Ghent said she feels strongly that every community should have its own theatre company.
That’s why in 1971, she joined the first board that created Sudbury Theatre Centre. At the time, the troupe operated out of an auditorium in the old Inco Club on Frood Road, located close to the College Street underpass.
It was even hard to get actors to come here, Ghent said, as none of them had ever heard of Sudbury, then still a hardscrabble mining town.
Ghent was co-chair of the fundraising committee that raised enough money to build the theatre building, which opened about three decades ago on Shaughnessy Street.
She remained on the theatre centre’s board until the 1990s, and is still involved in the organization to this day.
Ghent’s exemplary contributions to the arts in Greater Sudbury were honoured by the theatre centre June 8. at its second annual STC Honours event.
“I’m just thrilled,” said Ghent, who’s 81 years old. “It means a lot to me. Anything I’ve done, I’ve done for a love of the arts and the community. I really do believe that a community without live theatre is missing something pretty basic.”
Judi Straughan, who retired a year ago as Sudbury Theatre Centre’s education co-ordinator, praised Ghent for her contributions.
“When you meet Helen, she’s just a gracious, smiling lady who embraces the arts, embraces people, and is just a key person in this community,” she said.
“Whenever I go to arts events, Helen always seems to be there. How does she go to so many places? How does she cover so much? She just has a huge energy. She never shows her age. She has the spirit of a 21-year-old.”
Besides Ghent’s work getting STC off the ground, Straughan said she has billeted actors and theatre production workers in her home for many years.
“Actors or designers would be with her for six weeks,” she said.
“In that last week or two, she would always host a dinner where everybody in the building was invited. I have no idea how she would do that. She wouldn’t exclude anybody. You would just sign up in the green room to go to Helen’s house.”
Ghent is a familiar face at the theatre centre, as she always seems to be dropping in, Straughan said. She’s determined to do whatever she can to help.
“When I would look back at the historical pictures of the Sudbury Theatre Centre 30-plus years ago, there’s Helen covering coat check,” she said. “She was always there, doing whatever was needed. In a sense, there’s no job beneath Helen.”
A press release said Ghent is originally from St. John’s, Nfld., and she practised nursing at Hamilton General Hospital and the Hamilton East End Health Unit for several years, before moving to her now adopted home of Sudbury with husband Dr. Robert Ghent, and becoming a mother of three.
She is the former president of the Ontario chapter of the Canadian Cancer Society, the Council for Health Research in Canada, the Sudbury Business and Professional Women’s Club, Science North, YMCA, the Salvation Army, and the Cambrian Foundation.
Ghent was bestowed the Paul Harris Award in 1998 by the Rotary Club of Sudbury (International), the organization’s most prestigious honour, which she shares with the likes of Mother Theresa and several American presidents.
At last year’s inaugural STC Honours, the theatre centre honoured Mark Palumbo, whose efforts contributed to the explosion of film production in the city.