Earle Gister, a professor who taught at the School of Drama for 20 years, died in his sleep Jan. 22 at his home in New Haven. He was 77.

Gister joined the Yale School of Drama in 1979, and served as associate dean for academic affairs and chair of the acting program for 19 years. He retired in 1999, by which point he had trained thousands of actors. A number of Gister’s former students have started sharing stories of the late professor on a Facebook page called “Friends of Earle Gister.” Many have spoken of specific instances in which Gister made his mark on them, with his zeal for Chekhov’s and his ability to advise those who are struggling.

“He blasted our hearts every day […] he threw so many gems at us on a continual basis,” said one former student.

Gister was widely considered a pioneer in developing actor training around the country, having helped develop programs at the North Carolina School for the Arts, Carnegie Mellon University and the Juilliard School, among other institutions. He co-founded the League of Professional Theatre Training Programs, which coordinated various programs across the country from 1972-87. The website of The Actors’ Center describes him as a person “whom a generation of established actors look to as their primary artistic influence.”

Later this year, Pearson Academic will publish “Acting: The Gister Method,” a handbook co-written by Gister and Joseph Alberti. Gister is survived by three children and two grandchildren.

[via Playbill.]