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Mark Medoff dies at 79

Tony Award-winning playwright and former NMSU professor Mark Medoff died last night in Las Cruces at the age of 79.

Medoff was a beloved fixture in the local Las Cruces community who was perhaps best known for writing “Children of a Lesser God,” a play that would go on to win a Tony Award in 1980.

Tony Award winner Mark Medoff in his home in Las Cruces in 2003. (Photo courtesy of NMSU)

The film adaptation of the same name was nominated for five Academy Awards in 1986 including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, which Medoff co-wrote with Hesper Anderson. Marlee Matlin won an Oscar for Best Actress for her performance in the film.

Medoff co-founded the American Southwest Theatre Company at NMSU and was head of the NMSU Department of Theatre Arts for nine years. He also taught in the NMSU English department for 12 years.

Medoff was instrumental in launching NMSU’s Creative Media Institute in 2005, and he and his wife Stephanie were among the principal donors who helped fund construction of the NMSU Center for the Arts, which opened in 2013. The theatre located inside the center is named the Mark and Stephanie Medoff Theatre.

Medoff was a prolific playwright and screenwriter who penned more than 30 plays and more than a dozen screenplays. He was also a dedicated educator, philanthropist and family man who raised three daughters.

In addition to earning a Tony Award and Oscar nomination, Medoff received an Obie Award for his play, “When You Comin’ Back, Red Ryder?”, a Cable ACE Award for his HBO Premiere movie, “Apology,” the Kennedy Center Medallion for Excellence in Education and Artistic Achievement, and the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts — the state’s highest lifetime artistic achievement award.

Most recently, Medoff wrote an adapted screenplay for “Walking with Herb,” a faith-based indie film starring George Lopez and Edward James Olmos that was shot in Las Cruces last year.

Medoff died in hospice care surrounded by his family after a years-long battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife Stephanie, three daughters and eight grandchildren.

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