January 29, 2024

Empire State University Awards Dancer and Actor Prestigious Richard Porter Leach Fellowships

Linda Celeste Sims, a dancer from Mahopac, NY, and Adam Chanler-Berat, an actor from Brooklyn, NY, are this year’s recipients of the esteemed fellowship

(SARATOGA SPRINGS, NY — January 29, 2024) — A long-time dancer for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre Company and a stage and film actor have been selected to receive Richard Porter Leach Fellowships to attend Empire State University.

Linda Celeste Sims, a dancer from Mahopac, NY, and Adam Chanler-Berat, an actor from Brooklyn, NY, are this year’s recipients of the esteemed fellowship, named in memory of Leach, founder of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The fellowship is given to matriculated students who are established and active in the performing arts and pursuing an undergraduate degree at SUNY Empire.

“This year’s recipients of the Richard Porter Leach Fellowship embody the spirit and passion that Mr. Leach had for the dramatic arts in all its forms,” said Marly Norris, vice president in the Office for Advancement. “We are delighted to present these fellowships to two highly deserving students, whose careers demonstrate a commitment to the performing arts and its role in the betterment of our society.”

Both students are pursuing a B.A. degree in the arts. Sims, a principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in Harlem for more than 24 years, is a dance educator. She is also a choreographer and visiting assistant professor of modern dance at SUNY Purchase.

As the child of immigrant Latino parents, Sims began her dance training at the age of five at Ballet Hispánico in New York City. She attended the La Guardia High School of the Performing Arts and later joined Ballet Hispánico as a dancer. She went on to serve as the dance school’s rehearsal director.

Sims is the recipient of numerous awards and has appeared on various magazine covers as well as television programs, including “Dancing with the Stars,” “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” and “The Today Show.”

Her goal is to get a master’s degree in dance and to promote diversity in dance. “I believe that dance can break barriers and should have no barriers,” Sims said. “It is my wish as a teacher to serve as an example of what could happen for a young artist of color and give a hand and my heart to enable them to achieve their dreams.”

Chanler-Berat is a film and stage actor who was pursuing a degree in musical theater when he landed his first professional acting role in the musical “Next to Normal.” The play was performed on Broadway and off-Broadway and went on to win the 2010 Pulitzer for drama.

He also starred in Broadway productions of “Peter and the Starcatcher” and “Amélie” and films such as “Delivery Man” and “The Life Before Her Eyes.” His television credits include supporting roles on “Law and Order,” “The Good Wife,” and “NCIS: New Orleans,” among others. Since 2021, he has appeared as the teacher Jordan Glassberg in the HBO Max drama, “Gossip Girl.”

Chanler-Berat is currently exploring writing. “Although my career has continued to thrive, I find myself in a moment of expansion,” he said. “I have started to write, mostly plays and screenplays, and those pursuits made me crave additional education to satiate my appetite for growth.”

The Richard Porter Leach Fellowship was created in memory of Leach, a Phi Beta Kappa Dartmouth graduate and a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In addition to founding SPAC and serving as its director, he was a director of the Empire State College Foundation, now known as the Empire State University Foundation.