Floyd Gaffney, a University of California, San Diego professor emeritus who directed more than 80 productions for Southeast Community Theater (later Common Ground Theater), died of stomach cancer Wednesday morning at the age of 77.

He taught drama at UCSD from 1971, when he was one of the theater department’s founding members, until 1994. He was involved with Southeastern Community Theater since 1969, taking the reins as artistic director in 2004 and changing the name to Common Ground Theater to better reflect its grassroots mission.

Throughout his tenure he taught both undergraduate and graduate students, and served as a mentor to aspiring actors, directors and dancers, including James Avery of “Fresh Prince of Bel Air,” according to a news release from UCSD. KPBS awarded him a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 as part of their Patté Awards for Theater Excellence.

Gaffney will be remembered for developing young talent, said Common Ground Board President Dorothy Smith. “He would accept people,” she said. “He would see the talent in them, choose the right part and really develop that talent. He was a genius at putting together a cast.”

He was also extremely dedicated, even two nights before his death. Smith said a group of actors met in his hospital room Monday night for three hours as Gaffney gave them advice.

Gaffney was known for his dedication to promoting plays both about and written by African Americans, Smith said. “He’ll be missed for cultural development in black theater all throughout country,” she said.

Gaffney is survived by his wife Yvonne, daughters Michele and Monique, and sons Antoine and Brett. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.

NINA PETERSEN-PERLMAN

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