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Victoria "Luce" LeBlanc Fund: An Endowment for Thespians of the Future!

By Derrick Behm-Josa

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Photo of Victoria "Luce" LeBlanc standing with arm resting on a marble balcony of a gallery, smiling looking into camera, white skin, bright pink hair, dark green short sleeved dress, wearing a necklace with letters spelling out, "Victoria."

Photos: 1. Victoria as a little girl caught on film as she jumped in the air, outdoors, trees behind her, arms stretched out, white skin, blond hair with bangs flying, brown sweater and pants. 2. Luce as a young woman, white skin, brown hair pulled back, wearing a sleeveless black leotard, arms outstretched in ballerina pose, serious look, looking down at one hand. 3. Luce as The Gravedigger in Hamlet, facing the camera, arms outstretched, green winter cap, face covered in dirt, brown sweater and vest, with another actor sitting on the stage beside her. 4. Luce as The Gravedigger in Hamlet, side pose, looking up, arms crossed, pointing both index fingers opposite directions, green winter cap, face covered in dirt, brown sweater and vest. 5. Luce in black graduation cap and gown with red sash, side pose, laughing and conversing with another classmate, who is looking at her. They are surrounded by five other classmates smiling and looking into the camera.

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When Victoria "Luce" LeBlanc was 14 years old, a TV news station covered her experience as a Deaf ballet dancer taking the Royal Academy of Dance examination. Victoria told them that she hoped other Deaf people would see her and think, "If she can do it, then so can I."

With theater and the arts in her blood, Victoria loved telling stories that allowed her to get creative. She was always reading, attending art museums and Deaf film festivals, and creating crafts, poetry, and plays.

"Luce was a storyteller through and through," said Felicia D'Amato, *12. "| cherished and marveled at hearing her stories, and her ability to captivate and throw in a few perfect words with her extensive vocabulary, was a sight to behold. She had the funniest sense of humor and could have you laughing in stitches by the end of it. Every time I saw her at Gallaudet or at home, she had a new story to tell. She had the gift of sharing her experience in a way that was enjoyable and grabbed your attention."

Victoria grew up with opportunities to express her creative side. Her mother, Claire LeBlanc, made sure of it. While living in Phoenix, Arizona, Victoria attended a performing and visual arts camp for the deaf in Sedona called SouthWest Arts in Action. She attended this summer camp for three years in a row, sharing company with Chuck Baird, Troy Kotsur, E-'92, and other talented creators. She was always involved in something.

Her opportunities continued at Gallaudet University where she majored in English and Theater Arts. She participated in eight productions where she worked as a stage manager, costume designer, production assistant and actor. Professors and others at Gallaudet have described her as "a force to be reckoned with," and "phenomenal." Or, like Dr. Brian Cheslik, *14, a Gallaudet classmate, said, "She was a powerhouse of strength, creativity, sarcasm and quick wit." Even those who did not get to know Victoria will remember her for her bright pink hair she sported throughout her years at Gallaudet. She might have been small, but she left an impression.

The impact that Victoria left at Gallaudet shows how important it is to have more than

"representation." It is about being a part of a community of shared passions and dreams.

Even when she was 14 years old, Victoria didn't want to represent the Deaf community, she

wanted to inspire her community to join her in doing what she loved. That was the force Victoria generated everywhere she went.

After graduation, Victoria followed her classmates, such as Cheslik, Sandra Mae Frank, Charlie Ainsworth, and Amelia Hensley, in seeking exciting careers in theater and entertainment. Victoria's approach focused on local arts and theater organizations, most notably Deaf Spotlight, a nonprofit based in Seattle that inspires and showcases Deaf culture and signed languages through the arts. She also spent time advocating for social justice, especially with women and DeafBlind communities. It was also in Seattle that she was known as "Luce."

In October of 2018, after battling a rare lung disease, Victoria passed away. The loss of a valued community member is always painful, but Victoria's absence was felt all the more keenly for her presence in life. Professors Jill Bradbury (English) and Ethan Sinnott (Theater), and Victoria's mother Claire agreed that one of the many ways they could remember Victoria was through a memorial scholarship. "I immediately understood that the scholarship was a beautiful way of honoring my daughter because it would be paying forward Victoria's service to the Deaf community," Claire said. "She will always live on."

Today, is a virtual hub for arts, performance. and theater that does more than raising funds for the memorial scholarship, which will benefit students majoring in English and/or Theater. The site functions as a resource for people interested in Deaf arts and theater, and people can connect with Danica Alexander, the head librarian for Luce Our Light.

Everything on the website is created by Deaf artists and graphic designers

The memorial scholarship is still raising funds before it becomes fully endowed. Please consider donating to support future students and their studies in the English and Theater programs at Gallaudet.

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