Nearly a half-century after Michael Lynch played a redeemed Mr. Banks in Amsterdam High School’s production of “Mary Poppins,” the very auditorium that witnessed his performance will bear his name.
The auditorium recently got a substantial touch-up, with new seats and paint, and a generous helping of past grandeur. The facelift got former high school principal and theater director Umberto “Bert” DeRose thinking about Lynch. In the mid-1960s, Lynch was one of the best actors in the school Drama Club, taking leading roles in plays like “Camelot,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Miracle Worker” and “The Sound of Music.”
DeRose figured the place should have a name to go with its new look, one to capture the spirit of theater.
The Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education approved the new name Wednesday night, with DeRose and one of Lynch’s old friends speaking of his acting prowess and how worthy of the honor he was.
It is a posthumous honor. Lynch was killed in Vietnam in 1969 while trying to help a fallen comrade.
“Lynch graduated from Amsterdam High in 1966,” said Greater Amsterdam School District Superintendent Tom Perillo, “I came through four years later, so I didn’t know him, but I hear he was a guy who was passionate about everything he did.”
According to a letter written by one of his old friends, Edward Schwartz of Troy, Lynch acted with “conviction and fervor” on stage.
“Fellow cast members can testify that his stage characters always searched and were always transformed,” the letter said.
Evidently he acted no differently on the battlefield. After graduating from Amsterdam High in 1966, he spent two years in college before a New York City performance of “Man of La Mancha” inspired him to enlist in the military.
As a medic in the First Battalion, Fifth Infantry of the 25th Infantry Division, Lynch was attempting to help a wounded soldier when he was shot and killed.
According to Perillo, it was as much his heroic end as his acting chops that inspired the naming of the auditorium.
All these years later, the district has shifted around a bit. The high school Lynch attended — which is named after an unrelated city mayor and schools superintendent — is now the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy, a middle school. There’s still a flourishing drama club, but it performs over at the high school.