Thomas Warfield

“I have had a magical life,” says Thomas Warfield, assistant professor in NTID’s Cultural and Creative Studies Department; and former chairperson of RIT’s President’s Commission on Pluralism and Inclusion. Other titles Warfield can claim are world-renowned dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, director, producer, educator, activist and poet.

“In some ways I haven’t chosen my life’s direction,” he says. “I’ve tried to allow it to unfold and be open to the opportunities they present themselves.”

Warfield has welcomed many opportunities. Names of people he’s worked with—Spike Lee, Marvin Hamlisch, Carl Sagan, Beverly Sills and Placido Domingo, and places he’s performed—the Joffrey Ballet, The Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance and the Alvin Ailey School—give an idea of the scope of Warfield’s experiences.

The son of a minister and a musical conductor, Warfield grew up in Rochester, N. Y., and started performing as a first grader. At age 12, he performed with the Opera Company Children’s Chorus in Rochester and by sixth grade, he had written his first play. After graduating from SUNY Purchase, he joined the Dragon Dance Company of Macao and was influenced by his global experiences to become the founder/artistic director of PeaceArt International, a global outreach not-for-profit organization using the arts and the creative process to foster world peace.

In 1995, he returned home from his world travels to help care for his ailing father. He took a temporary job at RIT and interviewed for a dance faculty position even though he wasn’t planning on teaching. Warfield has never left. His influence within the community is broad, serving on boards of Rochester City Ballet, Arts and Cultural Council and president of ARTWalk.

“Some people might think that working with deaf students might be difficult because of what some perceive as the hearing component to dance,” says Warfield. “Actually, it made me develop new ideas and expand my thinking about dance and the meaning of it as well as embrace the many levels of experience and the diversity here.”

Warfield enjoys having the ability to create his own dance composition/choreography program and aims for an equal number of hearing and deaf students in his dance company.

“The word ‘adventure’ comes to mind when I describe my work here,” says Warfield. “It’s both challenge and discovery. The challenge is making it all happen—the discovery through that process is unparalleled.”

This story appeared in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue of FOCUS Magazine.

More Success Stories

Portrait of Talila Lewis
A desire to work with young people and involve them in social justice advocacy brought Lewis to RIT/NTID.
Mary Rose Weber
Weber’s favorite quote is from Albert Einstein: “The only source of knowledge is experience.”
Simmons, 22, from Pickering, Ohio, is a fourth-year Packaging Science major who plans to graduate in May.
RIT’s variety of support services was important to this Mechanical Engineering Technology major.
This NTID Presidential Scholarship recipient works hard, but still finds time to play.
Stein is a thinker and a doer. And he challenges his students to become thinkers and doers as well.
Paying it forward is important to this Pittsburgh native and associate director of NTID’s Pre-College Education Network (P-CEN).
Andrew Jacobson
NTID’s 2014 Distinguished Alumnus took the skills he learned at RIT/NTID and applied them to his professional life.
This interpreting major's interest in sign language began at home in Louisville, Kentucky.
This MIS major combines his love of technology with the social and people skills he developed in leadership experiences in NTID student government.
This outgoing young man says a vibrant student life on campus was an important factor in his decision to choose RIT.
A love of math and numbers is the reason why Ashleen Evans is pursuing a degree in Accounting.
Graham Forsey believes in being busy. He also believes in taking advantage of opportunities.
Hailing from Bethlehem, Palestine, David Tawil is pursuing a double major in Accounting and Management in RIT's Saunders College of Business and dreams of starting his own business.
Drawing in church to pass the time has helped Leah Murray develop the skills to graduate from NTID's Visual Communications Studies program with an associate degree.
Persistence is at the heart of what drives Tiffany Panko to succeed in medical school and in life.
After experiencing co-ops in Tanzania and at John Hopkins on co-ops, Jibril Jaha is now working full time at the US Department of Agriculture in Iowa.
Erin Kane understands the importance of getting prospective deaf and hard-of-hearing students to visit campus.