On December 30, 2021, Dr. Randy Bolton, passionate father, partner, professor emeritus, artist, learner, and golfer passed through the gates of physical life with Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen serenading him and poetry soothing his ears. His magnificent voice will live on in each of his beloved children, his wife, each student he cajoled, critiqued, and encouraged, the friends he made on a sidewalk, stools of a bar, church pews, classroom, and the stage of the theatre.
Dr. Bolton, born January 9, 1944, in Columbus, OH to Thelma Carroll and Dr. William Oscar Bolton, spent his youth in Washington Courthouse, OH where he managed three paper routes, sold greeting cards door to door, worked in the local drugstore, and spent Sunday afternoons lying on the grass in the cemetery developing a passion for birds.
Three choices loomed when he started college: A pharmacy degree courtesy of his employers. Ministry through the Episcopal Church. Or Theatre. In 1966 he graduated with a B.A. in English and Theatre at Wilmington College, Wilmington, OH, because he knew he could minister to a wider variety of souls.
An M.A. in Theatre from the University of Denver in 1970, a Ph.D. in Theatre from Florida State University in 1981 and an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Wilmington College in 2006 completed his ministry in life degree. Randy taught at Dana College and Peru State College in Nebraska before moving on to the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts, a pre-professional arts program that fostered talented students including Wynton and Branford Marsalis. In 1977, Randy began 43 years of teaching at the University of Montana where he developed an actor training program and co-created a program for master teachers, The Creative Pulse, with his dear friend, Dr. James Kriley.
For Randy, poetry was the blood of life. His deep appreciation and love of nature, delight in family, discoveries made with students, and personal angst fueled pages of writing. Some tender, some rough, but always full of honesty. His poetry can be found on Facebook at “My Husband is a Poet.”
Randy’s love was big! His children knew he was their biggest supporter. Through coaching, graduation speeches, long philosophical talks, thoughtfully unique sack lunches, reverence for all people and life, and his big booming voice cheering their teams, his love and pride enveloped them. He guided them through nature with wonder and adventure. As he set them on challenging encounters with hikes, camping, canoeing, and people, they always came out with a story or lesson to be told over and over.
Lessons with his students didn’t give an answer but prodded them to explore their spirit and look outside themselves. He reveled in the communications that came to class, and into students’ developing adult lives. He shared love equally with the underdogs and those whose paths seemed clear.
Randy is survived by his wife, Brenda; former wife, Joy Eiland; sons, Julian Bolton, and Madison Bolton (Carli O’Brien); daughter, Hannah Bolton (Steve Ackman); granddaughter, Riley Bolton; sisters Ruth Martin and Mary Bolton; brothers Tim Bolton, Stephen Bolton, Bill Bolton, and John Bolton. His dear son, Aaron Bolton; brother, Nathan Bolton; his parents and stepmother Diana Bolton preceded him in death.
Dr. Randy Bolton, UM Professor Emeritus, Celebration of Life. Saturday, July 16, 2022. High Noon! Family home – Florence, MT
We will be honoring Randy through poetry, music, memories, and food. Bring a meditation or prayer for love and balance in our world (to be written on prayer flags) in honor of Randy and a lawn chair. Please carpool as parking is limited. Watch for signs on the Eastside Highway.
Memorial donations to the UM School of Theatre and Dance may be made to the Theatre Impact Fund by putting “In Memory of Randy Bolton” in the comment box at the following link. Funds raised will create an enduring tribute to Randy on campus and to support future students in their education.
That’s the deal. Go deep fast. Truck on. I love you.