As president of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Susan Zech ’93 has seen many thespians preparing for close-ups. The boutique college with campuses in New York and Los Angeles counts among its alumni Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, to name a few from its 132-year history.
“I consider it a privilege to lead an institution I so wholeheartedly believe in,” Zech said. “It’s a joy to do work that honors an important legacy and advances a mission I really care about. Actors are vital to our civilization. Art heals. Inspires. It holds a mirror up to society and helps audiences understand the human condition. What could be more thrilling?”
Zech wears many hats — strategist, problem solver, consensus builder and mentor — and credits UD’s Learn. Lead. Serve.
maxim as a central philosophy that has shaped her leadership style. “It’s funny how what resonated for me then has remained important over the years. As I’ve matured in my role, I’ve discovered more about leadership being rooted in service,” she said.
The Academy attracts a global student body representing nearly 40 countries and all 50 states. Zech says this diversity enriches the learning process both professionally and socially for students.
When not commuting between the two coasts for work, Zech spends time with family and friends. “There’s no place like New York. I’ve also found it’s important to find a beach, lake or mountaintop from time to time to recharge.”
So, would Zech ever utter that famous line from Sunset Boulevard, “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up”? Not likely.
“I have the greatest respect for actors. They are among the most courageous souls on earth. I get to contribute in a meaningful way to the development of young actors, but my calling is not to be on stage,” Zech said.
Filmmaker Cecil De-Mille, Academy Class of 1900, found many others who would.