Professor Molly Lynch to receive distinguished alumni award

UC Irvine Alumni Association to Honor Professor Molly Lynch B.A. ’79, M.F.A. ’81 with Distinguished Alumni Award

The Claire Trevor School of the Arts and the UC Irvine Alumni Association have named Professor Molly Lynch the recipient of the prestigious Distinguished Alumni Award for 2023. The award recognizes her outstanding contributions to the field of dance and her exceptional leadership in academia and the arts community. 

Professor Lynch, a graduate of UC Irvine with a B.A. in 1979 and an M.F.A. in 1981, has spent over three decades dedicating her career to the art of dance. She currently serves as a Professor of Dance in the CTSA at UCI. Notably, Professor Lynch is the first Arts alumni to receive both the UCI Lauds and Laurels Outstanding Graduate Student Award in 1981 and the current Distinguished Alumni Award. 

Throughout her memorable career, Professor Lynch has achieved numerous accolades and milestones that set her apart as a trailblazer in her field. Lynch trained under Lila Zali and received a scholarship to the Joffrey Ballet, leading to performances as a soloist and principal dancer with the Louisville Ballet and Ballet Pacifica.

In 2004, Professor Lynch founded and became the artistic director of the National Choreographers Initiative (NCI). NCI plays a vital role as a research incubator and haven for ballet choreographers to develop their work without the pressure of immediate premieres. NCI collaborates with selected professional dancers from various ballet companies, offering them a unique opportunity to refine their craft. Past dancers have been from companies such as: Boston Ballet, Nevada Ballet Theatre, BalletMet, Ballet Austin, Kansas City Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. NCI's annual showcase at the Irvine Barclay Theatre has become a highlight of the dance calendar, attracting audiences and leading dance professionals from around the world.

Professor Lynch has held several leadership positions, including the Department of Dance chair at UCI and the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Affairs – CTSA, and served as the artistic director for Ballet Pacifica from 1988-2003. Under her direction, Ballet Pacifica became Orange County's premier professional dance company, known for pioneering programs like the Pacifica Choreographic Project and collaborating with renowned choreographers.

Professor Lynch's commitment to her alma mater and her students is evident in her role as a mentor and advocate. She has actively nurtured opportunities for students, faculty and professionals by strengthening community bonds and networks. Her dedication to her students was highlighted during the pandemic, when she ensured dance students had the necessary resources to stay connected as a dance community, innovating the role of Zoom and online modalities in dance education.

Throughout her distinguished career, Professor Lynch has received numerous awards and recognitions, including OC Metro magazine's "Ten Women Who Make A Difference," the Red Cross Clara Barton Cultural Arts Award, the Boy Scouts of America Women of Excellence Award, Choo San Goh Award for Choreography, the Arts Orange County (ArtsOC) Outstanding Arts Organization Award for NCI, Irvine Barclay Theatre's Jade Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from ArtsOC. She also received the Dean's Award for Teaching Excellence from the Division of Undergraduate Education in 2009 and 2014.

Professor Lynch continues to leave an enduring impact on her students through her dedication to UCI's mission of excellence in research, teaching and service. She embodies the generosity of spirit, innovation, creative leadership and community engagement that distinguishes Anteater alumni.

The UC Irvine Alumni Association will celebrate Professor Lynch and 23 other accomplished Anteaters at the 2023 Lauds & Laurels ceremony on October 26, 2023, at the Hyatt Regency Irvine. 

For more information about the event, please visit