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Lee Butz Honored for 40 Years of Photography at Arts Angels Dinner

by Tom McNamara ’92, M’21 Nov 3, 2023

Photo: (from left) Kristy McKeever, Dolly Butz, Lee Butz, Michel Diehl, and Kathy Kunsman.

On Monday, October 23, DeSales University held its annual Arts Angels Dinner. This year, the event honored Lee A. Butz, chairman of the board at Alvin H. Butz, Inc., and retired primary photographer for Act 1 and PSF productions. 

Butz met the founder of the DeSales performing arts division, Fr. Gerard Schubert, OSFS, in 1979 when the Butz company was building the then-planned Labuda Center for the Performing Arts. Lee Butz took aerial photos of the construction site from a helicopter. Schubert saw those photos and asked Butz if he would shoot photos of the productions. 

Butz accepted the challenges of stage lighting in a darkened theatre and the constant motion of the actors. More than 40 years and tens of thousands of photos later, the University has a tremendous archive of its theatre history. When the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival was founded in 1992, Butz brought his talent and artistry to those productions as well. 

Anne Lewis, head of the division of performing arts, was the emcee of the evening, grateful to honor “her pal.” She introduced Fr. James Greenfield, OSFS ’84, president of DeSales, who offered remarks, including that Butz was “truly a man for others behind that lens.”

Jason King Jones, artistic director of Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, spoke and presented Butz with a proclamation from the Pennsylvania State Senate, acknowledging the milestone. The proclamation originated from Pa. State Senator Nick Miller’s office from Lehigh and Northampton counties (Senate District 14).

After Patrick Mulcahy, professor of theatre, head of acting, and previously artistic director of PSF, praised Butz for his work, the man himself took the podium.

Butz began by acknowledging his wife, Dolly, for her support as well as Michel Diehl and Kathy Kunsman—staff members at Alvin H. Butz, Inc. who greatly supported his photography by printing contact sheets and sending photos to DeSales.

In addition, he was full of gratitude for the opportunity to share his art. And of course, he told his favorite Father Schubert story. 

In 1984, Butz carefully took a photo of the crucifixion scene from Schubert’s original play “Mark My Word”—a stage retelling of the Gospel of Mark. Butz expected the photo would be used in the lobby during the run of the play. However, the night he and Dolly attended, the photo was missing. 

“Gerry [Schubert] told me later that he did not hang up that photo because he didn’t want to give away the ending of the show,” said Butz.

For all of Butz's gratitude from the podium, it is DeSales that is thankful for more than 40 years of his dedication to his photography hobby and how we were the beneficiaries.