Cynthia L. Louden

Cindy Louden

Most North Penn High School (NPHS) graduates can reminisce on a unique space in their alma mater that feels like "home." For some it may be the room of their favorite class, the stairwell where they were asked to the prom, or their daily "hangout" corner before the bell rang. For others, it's a stroll down one of the pods or the bleachers in the student section of the football stadium. But for thousands of Knights - past, present and future - it's more than a place, and it's more than a memory. The stage, seats, curtains and everything inside the walls of the NPHS auditorium is a part of who they are; a part that has been shaped, whether they know it or not, by the hands of Cynthia L. Louden.

Photo of Cindy Louden.

Cindy Louden is a celebrated member of the North Penn community and a beloved retiree of the North Penn School District (NPSD) for her fiery passion and unwavering dedication to the education of students in the areas of speech, theatre and beyond. She is part of the building blocks that are NPHS and all that it has become.

Cindy graduated from the University of St. Francis with a Bachelor of Arts in English/Secondary Education/Social Sciences in 1965. She earned her Masters Equivalency at Villanova University in Acting and Directing Emphasis in 1974 and her Masters in Performing Arts Administration in 1982 from Norwich/Goddard University. Straight from the gate, Cindy landed her first teaching job at Bishop Conwell High School where she taught English and founded the Limelighters Theatre. After two years, Cindy transitioned to the place she would call home for the next 38 years and the remainder of her teaching career, NPHS. Cindy is one of the lucky ones to have experienced NPHS in its many stages of life, teaching at its prior location now known as Penndale Middle School and opening the doors to the brand-new high school in 1971. During her time at North Penn, she taught classes in Speech, Gifted Resource, English, Special Education, and of course, theatre. She served on the Gifted Resource team and served as a North Penn Education Association (NPEA) representative for NPHS.

For her first two years at NPHS, Cindy was the Assistant Drama Director. In this role, she entered a few interested students in the Pennsylvania High School Speech League 1-Act Play contest for the first time as "NPHS Theatre." Her knack for cultivating talent was evidenced by the rookie squad taking first place at the contest. At the time, theatre was an extracurricular activity at North Penn. A few years later, the students successfully petitioned for the first drama classes to be added to the curriculum at NPHS and Cindy become the first ever NPHS Theatre Director and Teacher in 1970, her final year in "the old high school."

Photo of Cindy Louden.

With the support of former NPHS Community Education Director Kenneth Weir, Cindy Louden hit the ground running and began producing North Penn's first musical. With former NPHS staff members 'Bolly' Thompson in the pit, Alvin Schmidt on vocals, Nancy Budzynski choreographing and David Miller on sets, NPHS Theatre opened the new high school auditorium with Anything Goes! In 1971. "We were a hit and no one knew it was my first time producing a musical!" Cindy said. Cindy Louden went on to produce more than 100 musicals and dramas over the next 34 years at North Penn.

As popularity and clout for the NPHS Theatre program grew, so did Cindy's larger-than-life dreams for North Penn. Over the years, audiences enjoyed live animals, ambulances, antique cars, flying actors along with great acting, singing, dancing and sets/lights in countless incredible shows. "How many times I heard, 'it's better than Broadway' and 'how will you ever top this one?'" Cindy recalled. "When we start in this place, it's an auditorium. And for each show, it becomes a theatre."

Cindy worked to develop an in-depth, challenging theatre curriculum that encompassed a range of classes for each component of the production process. These courses included Drama Major I and II, Acting I and II, Acting for TV and Film, Playwriting, Make-Up Design, Theatre History, Stage Crew & Design and Special Education Theatre.

Cindy provided opportunities for training and experience to each and every member of the NPHS Theatre program. This is evidenced by her involvement with the Lansdale Community Concerts Association as Stage Manager and House Manager. When the new high school opened in 1971, the Lansdale Community Concerts Association partnered with the district to utilize the brand-new auditorium space. Thanks to Cindy's role as stage manager for the association, NPHS theatre students immediately became their Stage Crew, working all of the school and community events that were booked in the new, 1,700 seat auditorium. "Thanks to the Lansdale Community Concerts Association, the theatre kids got the professional crew experiences their resumes needed," Cindy noted graciously.

In an effort to provide even more students with additional and varied theatrical experiences and opportunities for competitions and scholarships, Cindy founded NPHS Thespian Troupe #5464 in 1996. The troupe was awarded a medal at their very first state conference, earning them an invitation to perform at the international competition later that year. "Again, we were a hit and my new, baby daughter Leanne met 10,000 people in three months!" said Cindy. Cindy was recognized by the International Thespian Society as Outstanding Theatre Teacher in 1999 and led the NPHS Thespian Troupe to winning the Outstanding Theatre Program Award in 2000.

Cindy was also involved with the Green Room Club at NPHS and instituted its annual field trip to New York City, a tradition that is still upheld today.

And the list doesn't stop there. In 1999, Cindy Louden proudly supported student Ryan Williams in the completion of an innovative graduation project that kick-started a nationwide charity effort for high school theatre students throughout the country. Williams came up with an idea to stage a performance event featuring North Penn thespians as a fundraiser for a New York-based nonprofit called Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, which draws upon the talents of the theater community to raise funds for HIV/AIDS causes. The organization seized the opportunity to reach young people and provided NPHS with signed Broadway memorabilia to auction off at the event. Not only did it become an annual event at North Penn, it also launched similar efforts at other high schools across the country, with student thespian groups selling red ribbons and wristbands, holding auctions of signed Broadway souvenirs, and producing evenings showcasing the events of students with the proceeds donated to BC/EFA. Cindy oversaw the event and offered support to students as they worked together in founding the first ever high school chapter of BC/EFA under her direction.

Photo of Cindy Louden.

And for every "first" and lasting tradition that Cindy instituted at NPHS, she has an accolade to match. Inside Cindy Louden's trophy cabinet, you will find the National Education Association Outstanding Educator Award, the Philip Merrill Outstanding High School Educator Award from the University of Maryland, the National Education Association's Outstanding Educator Award, recognition from the BC/EFA Theatre Educators as the first High School Thespian Chapter, and two honors from the Pearl S. Buck International Volunteer Association for Docent and Volunteer of the Year.

Through all of Cindy's success, she remained humble and gracious, constantly saying that she couldn't have done it alone. She noted feeling "so very, very privileged to receive the emotional and physical support from my teaching colleagues, support staff, principals and NPSD administration."

Cindy felt nothing but support from her colleagues at North Penn. "I could go to any one of them and borrow bleachers, athletic uniforms, mannequins, IMC chairs and tables, Cafeteria trays (and cookies), art supplies, health suite supplies, science equipment, social studies globes, maps, English texts, scripts, language translators, speech and dialect coaching, TV equipment - anything I needed to stage a NPHS Theatre play or musical was ALWAYS handed over. The providers loved having 'their prop' become a STAR on the stage!"

But it was never about the recognition for Cindy. Her abundant success was simply the result of her faithful dedication and perseverance on behalf of her beloved students. "Standing in the rear of the theatre for each show and watching the audience rise to give standing ovations to the casts, crews, orchestras and staff still brings tears to my eyes," Cindy reminisced. "Watching the kids' faces when they received flowers over the footlights and then all lined up down K-Pod Corridor to personally receive the adulation of their audiences; watching the faces of the kids' loved ones burst with pride for them... these are my favorite memories of North Penn."

Photo of Cindy Louden.

Cindy took NPHS by storm with her unique vision and impenetrable plan to make NPHS Theatre a legendary program for students and the North Penn community. "Cindy's passion for theater, commitment to her students, endless energy and creativity fostered an environment where students could express themselves, gain confidence, practice public speaking, collaborate with classmates, and form friendships that last a lifetime," said Andrea Roney, current NPHS Theatre producer and teacher.

Andrea served under Cindy Louden as a volunteer and student teacher until Cindy's retirement from NPSD in 2005. Cindy passed the baton to Andrea with confidence and faith stating in 2006, "Now it's Andrea Roney's NPHS Theatre history to create, and I can't wait to be in the audience."

While Cindy wasn't busy teaching, producing and directing at North Penn, she served as an Adjunct Theater and Speech Professor at Penn State University's Lehigh Valley campus for almost 20 years until 2002. She has also served as a member of the Secular Franciscan Order since 1964 holding local, regional and national positions and is currently a member of the planning committee for the International Spring Festival at NPSD, a position she has held since 2009.

In her retirement, Cindy continues to share her passion for special education and the arts, serving on the board of the Harmony Theater Inc. Adults with Disabilities Performance Programs. Cindy is also heavily involved with the Pearl S. Buck Volunteer Association where she serves as a Legacy Ambassador. Cindy co-founded the Pearl S. Buck Writing Center in 2010 where she also chairs Special Events/Community Projects. In her role as chair of the writing center, Cindy connected two of her real volunteering interests by editing and publishing the stories of Harmony Theater Inc. actors in a novel titled "Stories from the Hearts of Harmony."

"Pearl Buck's only birth daughter was born with Phenylketonuria (PKU) and was greatly intellectually disabled," said Cindy. "The Harmony Theater Inc. Actors and families all have great personal stories of accomplishments and I took it on as a community outreach program."

Cynthia L. Louden has greatly impacted the lives of hundreds of NPHS students during her groundbreaking, professional teaching career. Former graduates have gone on to work professionally in TV, regional theatre, film, radio and on Broadway. Others pursued careers in medicine, law and education.

"I am so very, very thankful and forever indebted to all the NPHS Theatre kids, families, staff members and hundreds of volunteers," Cindy said. "We are still Theatre Family."