In September, the Missouri Southern Board of Governors awarded retired faculty member Sam Claussen the title of Professor Emeritus.
The honorary term is awarded only to those who have spent at least 15 years as full time faculty members at Missouri Southern, have played a singularly important role in educating students and have received approval from the University Board.
Claussen began work at MSSU in 1977, leaving 33 years later in 2010 as technical director and professor of Theatre.
Claussen has a long personal tradition of being the first to start work in the morning and, very often, the last to leave at night.
“Retirement lets me do what I want to do,” he declares. “What I want to do is be at work instead of sitting in a recliner. I can’t cold-turkey that.”
After spending his early years in in Carl Junction, he obtained a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics from Missouri Southern. He then served in the U.S. Navy for four years during the Vietnam War era.
After his military service ended, he obtained a B.A. in Theatre from Missouri Southern and a Master of Fine Arts in Theatre from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He also served in the Navy Reserve, serving as a Chief Petty Officer until his retirement.
Claussen taught lighting design, scenery design and stage management. Throughout his employment, he was responsible for similar duties when shows would come to Missouri Southern to perform. These included the Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Cheap Trick, several appearances by comedian George Carlin, Up with People, and many others. More recently, he worked with the Christian Rock groups Petra and D.C. Talk.
Through the course of his career, he acted and directed various plays, particularly concentrating on children’s theatre productions.
“I’ve really enjoyed the children’s shows. The audience hangs onto every word. You get to see how you have affected students in very specific ways. Later, you get the same students who were here when they were five or six come through our program,” he laughs.
Claussen feels live theater will always retain its validity.
“There is a whole added dimension to performing live,” he states. “It’s part of a contract between audience and performer. When you laugh, the performer reacts. It’s the same for an actor projecting an evil part. It’s not the same as flat screen or 3-D. Here, we have real 3-D!”
Claussen is currently teaching Theatre Appreciation online and a traditional University Experience class.
Some of his favorite memories include working on Godspell with former Theatre Department Director Jay Fields and directing the play Waiting for Godot with Brenda Jackson.
Claussen is president of the local chapter of the Missouri Archeology Society. He and fellow MSSU faculty member Dr. Conrad Gubera of the Social Science Department have made numerous trips to the land of the Maya (Guatemala and Mexico). Adding to his accomplishment, Claussen has twice taught in London as a part of MSSU’s Oxford program. Both Claussen and Gubera were there in 2011 when they learned about the tornado that devastated a large part of Joplin.
Alongside the adventures and exciting experiences he has had while teaching, he particularly remembers the challenges over the years. One memorable struggle happened when the Los Angeles Ballet Company came to town. A Missouri Southern show had just closed the previous night in Taylor Performing Arts Center.
“We had to strike the show, take out the pit cover for the orchestra, and put the whole thing together,” he recalls. “Many times I have worked all night.”
Still, he says, the memories are pleasant:
“It was work, but it didn’t feel like work,” he says with a grin. “That’s how it is when you love what you’re doing.”