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    Posted June 25, 2009

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Conard Fowkes Accepts Patrick Quinn Award

Conard Fowkes and his fellow VITA Volunteers

At its meeting on Tuesday, June 16, the Council hosted a reception for Conard Fowkes, who received the 2009 Patrick Quinn Award. Mr. Fowkes should most notably be recognized for co-founding the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, VITA, with Michael Enserro and Schorling Schneider in 1977. He also has been a Council member since 1973, Treasurer since 1988 and Secretary/Treasurer from 1993 to 2009.

The Patrick Quinn Award recognizes and rewards those who give of themselves to improve the lives of actors. The recipient is selected by a panel chosen by the Actors' Equity Foundation and is awarded a Lalique crystal piece and $1,000 check.

Newly elected Secretary/Treasurer Sandra Karas presented the "Molly" crystal (named after Quinn's golden lab) to a full house of admiring Councillors, VITA volunteers, Equity staff and friends:

Conard Fowkes and Assistant to the President Anne Fortuno

"I have been asked to make a few remarks about Conard Fowkes and his service to his fellow actor, but, for those who might not know a great deal about his various accomplishments, I want to preface those comments with some background. Connie, whose father was a naval officer and whose mother encouraged his study of the theatrical arts, followed both paths successfully. First, he was a member of the second graduating class of New York's High School of Performing Arts and, having won a 4-year Navy scholarship to Yale, served 3 years upon graduation as Communications Officer and Cryptographer aboard the aircraft carrier Saratoga. Thus, were his loves of the theatre and the Navy forever entwined. "

From L to R - Executive Director John Connolly, President Mark Zimmerman, Conard Fowkes, 3rd Vice President Ira Mont

"Returning to New York after the Navy, Conard began his professional career as an actor and never looked back. He received his Equity card in 1958 and, years later, can be counted among the few members of this or any other performing arts union who can boast of a lifelong career solely through employment as an actor. Working in all media - theatre, television, film and radio - Connie became one of our industry's more recognizable presences. From hundreds of commercials, eight different soap operas, many notable films and, of course, continued work in the theatre, Conard Fowkes has left an indelible mark on those who have worked with him and the many fans he made along the way. All the while he was forging a career as a performer, Conard was rearing three daughters, who have gone on to be accomplished in their own rights in the arts, in academia and in management."

Secretary/Treasurer Sandra Karas, Conard Fowkes and “Molly”

"His union service is as extensive as his theatrical biography: a council member since 1973, treasurer since 1988 and secretary-treasurer since 1993, innumerable committee positions, including chair of many, and scores of negotiating teams. But what would arguably become his most notable and enduring contribution was the founding of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program - VITA - with Michael Enserro and Schorling Schneider in 1977. Although we lost Michael and Schorling many years ago and far too soon, the VITA program at Actors Equity has continued because of Connie's efforts and the band of oddball, stalwart volunteers he has cajoled into service. Of signal import was the successful Congressional lobbying campaign in 1986 to include theatrical artists in the Internal Revenue Code for the first time in its history. Conard was part of Equity's delegation, along with representatives from SAG and AFTRA, resulting in landmark legislation, recognizing our members' work and creating a special provision for low-income performers. He returned from Washington with the brand new Code § 62 (a)(2)(B) Qualified Performing Artist provision under his arm, allowing an above-the-line deduction for our members' expenses. This provision returned its investment in the first year, giving relief to those in our industry who struggle with the vagaries of plying their artistic trade. Since that momentous occasion, and in the more than three decades of his VITA service, Conard Fowkes, with VITA, has saved his fellow actors and stage managers literally millions of dollars. His service at VITA is much like the man himself - at once irascible and kind. If you just pay attention and do the right thing, your efforts will pay off. You'll file an honest return and pay less tax. He has been happy to teach every actor and stage manager he helps, but insists that each takes the lesson to heart. His professorial style in imparting the secrets of the Code is driven purely by his passion for getting it right. Anyone who knows Connie knows that this and his love for his fellow union members are what drive him to set such high standards for us and for himself."

"In conclusion," Karas said "Patrick Quinn knew and loved Conard well and the feeling was mutual. That Patrick chose to recognize service to the often hapless, regularly unemployed, sometimes beleaguered, but always hopeful, actor is expressed in his legacy. This sentiment is embodied perfectly in this year's recipient of the Patrick Quinn Award for Distinguished Service to Actors, my friend, Conard Fowkes."

Accepting the Award, Conard spoke about how he felt when he learned he was to receive this award and his relationship with Patrick: "I choose to believe that Patrick was consulted about my receiving this very special and for me particularly personal award. I distinctively heard him say, 'Well, if that's the best you can do, okay but tell him to let up on the grammar lessons.' So where are we now with the award? We have Jeanna Belkin, Alan Eisenberg and, ah yes, Conard Fowkes as the Beaver."

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