The Art of LonAug 26th, 2009 | By admin | Category: Features
By Elise Marie Knable ’09
Professor of Art Lon Fluman believes his personal work philosophy has held true in his nearly 50-year career at Wesley College. He reflects on his professional and personal experiences during his tenure, as well as his plans for the future.
During his tenure at Wesley, he has moved through five different office locations on campus and has experienced the ups and downs of a changing institution over the years, learning to “take the good with the bad.” Now in his current studio, located on the upper level of the Wesley Chapel, he reflects on the experiences that have made his long-standing employment at Wesley so special.
Fluman holds a bachelor’s degree from Lycoming College and received his Ed.M. from Temple University. After working at a public school and deciding it was not for him because of too many papers and reports, he began teaching at Wesley in 1964. He did not know much about the institution when he was first hired, despite the fact that at that time, Wesley had a solid reputation as a top two-year college in the area. “To me, it was just an interesting school. Old Main was a gigantic Victorian building and I still wanted to be able to teach because I love kids,” he commented.
Teaching a wide spectrum of art related subjects at Wesley as well as a vast array of students has not only given Fluman incredible professional experience in his field but also allowed him to share many memories with others. He takes pride in his ability to teach every student as an individual, something he deems important as an educator.
Students that he has taught often remember him for his individualized teaching style as well as his unique personality and sense of humor. A 1986 graduate named Wendy, who took several semesters of art with Fluman, recalled, “Back then, he was a positive, playful teacher who made the class the ‘fun’ one to show up for. He paid attention to detail in my art and taught me some techniques that I use to this day, and the art collection I produced in his classes I still have. What I created was beyond my imagination simply due to his terrific teaching style and vision. In fact, just recently I got in touch with Wesley so I could call him and thank him all these years later…and I did,” she said.
Dr. Jeffery Mask, professor of religion and philosophy at Wesley, has been fortunate to work with Fluman and witness his teaching firsthand as a student in his class. Mask said, “Lon has generously allowed me to sit in on watercolor classes for the last eight or ten years, and his generosity has only been excelled by the honesty — not to say the brutality — of his critiques of my painting. I have had the privilege of watching him teach for awhile now. He can find something affirming to say about the most ‘elementary’ piece that a student has done, while still inspiring any student who is willing to make an effort to do better work.” Mask also feels grateful for the deep and lasting friendship he has developed with his colleague. “In some ways, Lon is an acquired taste. He cultivates a crusty exterior, but a truly sweet soul resides within. I count my friendship with Lon as one of the very best things to have come from my eighteen years at Wesley,” he said.
Fluman looks back with fondness at many memorable and comical moments throughout his career. He recalls his first year at the College when the faculty and the Board of Trustees were invited to dinner with Bishop Lord. “Someone said to me, ‘We are having dinner with the Lord.’ As a new professor, I didn’t know that was the Bishop’s last name so I couldn’t help but imagine dinner with angels and a light show,” Fluman said with a chuckle.
Reminiscing about other experiences, he recalled one evening in the late 60s when he chaperoned a Halloween dance. “I was there to make sure students weren’t drinking because of the strict alcohol policy.” He began to notice that very few students were leaving the dance and then observed drunken behavior from a growing number of them. “They were drinking an awful lot of cider,” he said, “so I walked over and asked the server for a glass. I took one sip and it made me take a step back!” Fluman discovered that the cider was fermented “hard cider” which had been purchased from a farmer who most likely didn’t realize the purpose for which it would be used. “I look back on these things and think they were pretty funny now that they are in the past,” he noted.
Fluman describes one of the most interesting aspects of working for the College throughout the decades as the opportunity to teach families. By having a second generation student in his classroom, he has an immediate connection with the student because of his or her parent. “How many professors can say they taught someone and now have that person’s child in the class? I think that is pretty fun,” he stated.
Fluman considers one of Wesley’s strengths to be its liberal arts curriculum. Referencing the Greek belief of education for all aspects of one’s self — the body, mind and soul — he pointed out that “art, music and physical education are really important for a student to have.” He believes that concentrating on only one field can be unhealthy and lead to becoming a narrow minded individual, and that Wesley does a good job in educating the whole person. “Wesley helps students find other outlets to keep their minds open and learn new things,” he said.
Now entering his 47th year of teaching at Wesley, Fluman has seen a number of professors come and go, along with thousands of students who have graduated. What has remained constant, in his opinion, is the sense of caring among faculty and staff and the personal relationships that grow within the campus community. “Wesley really cares about young people. Maybe you’ll find that other places, maybe not. I think that a lot of times, professors at other schools do more important things outside the actual classroom than working with individual students.” Like many professors at Wesley, Fluman has demonstrated that caring attitude on many occasions when students have come to him with problems. He said, “Whether that problem is academic or personal, students feel close enough to certain professors that they can confide in them knowing what they say will remain in confidence.” He added, “A lot of times professors take on the role of a holy person or doctor in student’s eyes because of the respect they are given in their classroom.” Therefore, Fluman takes his role very seriously.
While working at the College, Fluman’s interest in the Eastern culture has grown enormously, especially with the addition of foreign students visiting Wesley. When a group of Japanese students first visited campus in 1995, Fluman mentored one of them, who later returned home and then invited him to visit Japan. Intrigued by the Japanese culture, he ended up visiting the country nine more times after that.
Fluman has become strongly involved with the sister schools who bring groups of their students to Wesley annually and as coordinator of Wesley/Japan programs, he strives to ensure that the visitors have a rewarding and educational experience. Last summer, he and other faculty and staff involved with the program played host to 53 students and four professors from Hachinohe Institute of Technology (HIT) in Japan for the English as a Second Language (ESL) Institute on campus. Eleven Wesley students shared dorm rooms and worked closely with the visiting students. “This partnership gives Wesley students the opportunity to bridge that gap in cultures and discover a different way of life,” he explained.
Having seen the College grow and change over almost five decades, Fluman has been an eyewitness to a good portion of Wesley’s history. Still, he finds it difficult to specifically define the College and sum up his feelings about the institution. “I work for that nebulous something called Wesley College. As soon as you put a label on it, you shrink down the actual size of that nebulous. You can’t see, hear or smell it; it’s a feeling, an emotion that doesn’t have any form of words.”
“People ask me what I am going to do when I retire. I tell them ‘art’ — exactly what I do now,” Fluman stated. Wesley will always be the place where he did what he loves to do and was able to teach and shape the lives of others at the same time. W