"This is my favorite space to work in," Salisbury said in 2007 of the campus theater named after him. "I think it's the best theater in Alaska."
Salisbury arrived at the university in 1955 as a speech instructor, but his true love was theater. He went on to direct nearly 100 plays while at the university. His work also helped bring KUAC FM to the airwaves in 1962.
Salisbury, as a young man, worked in theater in New York before heading west and marrying Lesley Hampton. Her sister was Druska Schaible, then the university's dean of women and head of the Biology Department. Schaible invited Salisbury to apply for the speech job.
For many years, Salisbury was the speech and drama program's only faculty member. Early in his career, plays were staged in the gym, which is now Signers' Hall. Productions had to work around basketball games and ROTC training. In 1957, plays moved to Schaible Auditorium, named for Salisbury's sister-in-law after she died in a fire, but it lacked a real stage.
Salisbury's advocacy finally led to construction of the Fine Arts Theatre at the Regents' Great Hall in 1969. The Board of Regents, acting on a student petition, renamed it the Lee H. Salisbury Theatre in 1993, five years after he retired.
Salisbury died March 8, 2015, in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Hundreds of people attended a memorial in Fairbanks later that year. Many remembered Salisbury's sense of humor.
A friend of 50 years, Ronan Short, "described Salisbury as 'an equal opportunity iconoclast' who loved to tell 'clean jokes, dirty jokes, religious jokes,'" according to a Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article about the memorial. "Short proceeded to tell several of them, much to the delight of the attendees."
More online about Lee Salisbury:
- An obituary from the April 5, 2015, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
- A brief obituary in the fall 2015 edition of Aurora magazine
- An Aug. 8, 2015, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner article about Salisbury’s memorial gathering in Fairbanks
- An article on the UA Journey website