Steven Ropski, Ph. D., is best known for being a professor in Gannon University’s biology department, but what students may not know about him is his love for the theater.
Ropski said the thing that makes him so passionate about theater is “doing things that are very different than who I am in real life.”
In real life, he has worked for Gannon for 35 years.
He graduated from Gannon in 1978, and in 1979, while teaching at Elk County Christian High School, he started his journey in the theater.
Ropski said he had never acted before, but “the director needed someone last minute to hop in, and I couldn’t say no to him.”
The Rev. Shawn Clerkin continued to encourage Ropski to join the Erie Playhouse where Ropski got his first major role as mayor in “Seussical the Musical.”
He said the jump to the Erie Playhouse was “nerve-racking” because he had never taken lessons to learn how to dance or sing.
Prior to this role, he said he would sit in the audience and think “I can do that,” and his wife said, “Audition already!”
“After all these auditions, the butterflies are still there,” Ropski said.
Since then, he has done over 20 shows at the Erie Playhouse, one at All An Act, one at Dramashop and one at Gannon.
He also works with In All Seriousness – Murder Division, to do theater murder mysteries.
Doing murder mysteries, Ropski said, is “totally different and, in some cases, more fun.”
There are certain clues the character must get across, then the rest of the show is improvisation in character.
Some of his favorite roles include playing Mr. Banks in “Mary Poppins,” Jacob in “The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” Mr. Mayor is “Seussical the Musical” and being Erik Blake in “The Humans.”
At the end of the day, though, Ropski said he decided to become a biology professor because he likes “being outdoors and sharing that with students.”
One of his better-known projects is his ongoing research on bats on campus that are dying of white-nose syndrome.
When he first started tracking the bats with his students, there were 1,200 bats.
This past summer, there were eight bats.
The disease comes from a fungus that has crushed the population and although the bats may not make a comeback, he will continue to research the effects.
The failing bat population “has serious implications for insect control and the diseases they cause,” Ropski said.
This is part of his love for the outdoors as well. Ropski also acts as the chair on the board of directors for Environment Erie, a place for environmental education and services in the Erie area.
A man of many hats, Ropski continues to be one of the many talents Gannon has on staff.