Co-President, RJ Deverell Productions, Halifax, NS. Born: Houston, Texas.
Dr. Rita Shelton Deverell, C.M., Ed.D. is the 12th holder of Nancy’s Chair in Women’s Studies at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax (2009-2011). In 2005, she completed her term as Director of News and Current Affairs for APTN, the world’s first Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Under her leadership, APTN National News launched its first daily show in 2002. While at APTN, Rita used her widely recognized team-building and daily show running skills to mentor her Aboriginal successor.
In the summer of 2005, Dr. Deverell returned to the theatre and drama. Since then, she has written and performed three, one-woman shows, Smoked Glass Ceiling, McCarthy and the Old Woman, and Big Ease, Big Sleaze. Eight TV drama titles have gone to air on OMNI, APTN, SCN, and Bravo!
Rita was selected by WIFT-T (Women in Film and TV Toronto), for their 2006 Banff TV Festival Mentorship Award and a Quebecor Fellow for the 2007 Banff TV Festival. In 2006, she was appointed the first CanWest Global Fellow, a one-term commitment, and was in residence at the University of Western Ontario, Faculty of Information and Media Studies, in the winter term (2007). She was in the in the playwrighting units of both Nightwood and Obsidian Theatres (2007-08); was the first Storyteller-in-Residence at the Centre for Creative Communications of Centennial College (2008-09); wrote In Press, an anthology of 20-minute scripts from the Obsidian Theatre playwrights units for Playwrights Canada Press; and the epilogue to the autobiography of blacklisted theatre pioneer, Florence James, for the Canadian Plains Research Centre.
Rita is one of the founders of Vision TV, the world’s first and only multi-faith television network. She was part of Vision’s executive management team and regulatory strategic planning from the network’s successful licensing in 1987, through its renewal and award of a subscriber fee in 1992, and in August 2000 successful applications to the CRTC for three digital channels. She is thrilled to be in the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame, to have two Geminis to cheer her up, and to have been appointed to the Order of Canada in 2005.
In addition to a demonstrated passion for social justice, Dr. Deverell is frequently sought after as an inspiring teacher. In the 1980s, she was a tenured Professor and Acting Director of the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. From 2001-02, she was Reader’s Digest Visiting Professor of Journalism at the University of Western Ontario and taught Diversity Journalism at Ryerson University. In 2006, Rita was the external reviewer for the Journalism Broadcast Program at Seneca at York. She was founding Chair of the Advisory Board of Canadian Multicultural Radio (CMR), and she serves as a member-at-large of the Specialty Panel of the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CBSC), a board member of the Media Awareness Network, Creative Women’s Workshops Association, and OCAD University.
Two books, two national conferences, two theatre productions, and teaching a course on “Women and Aging” round out the upcoming year for this amazing woman! This past March, Rita was deeply honoured to receive the Black Women’s Civic Engagement Network’s Leadership Award.
Favourite book? Anything by Walter Mosley or Maya Angelou.
Favourite quote? “Maybe you could walk to freedom at night after your day job.”
Given the chance, what would you love to do that you haven’t done yet? Lots of voice over work to pay well and support my arts habit!
Who inspires you? Love for the scores of people who have been mentors or mentees and who lifted me up, and anger at the six SOBs who tried so hard to put me down.
Why do you do what you do? Every talent one has must be put to use. The opportunity to do so is golden. Any power that one comes by must be used to make the world a better place.