Teaching Excellence Convocation

1996

The nominees were:

Name

College

Department

Joe Oliver

Applied Arts and Sciences

Communications

Camille Price

Business

Computer Science

Mitzi Perritt

Education

Human Sciences

Allen Oster

Fine Arts

Theatre

Michael Fountain

Forestry

Forestry

Jere Jackson

Liberal Arts

History

Thomas Callaway

Sciences & Mathematics

Physics and Astronomy

And the winner was: Allen Oster

Mr. Allen Oster

Last spring (1996) Allen Oster was selected to receive SFA's Outstanding Teacher Award. What would be equally fitting would be a Perseverance Award.

Perseverance has been a trademark since Oster's arrival on campus in 1983. Although he began directing student theatrical productions immediately and was teaching a full load, he was carried as a lecturer four years and then another year as an instructor before finally being named an assistant professor in 1988. Promotion to associate professor came three years ago.

The road to Oster's present position took a number of twists and turns, including an eight-year hiatus from university student life to act and direct professionally for college, summer, regional and dinner theatres in Arizona, California, both Dakotas, Texas and Utah.

But, let's go back to childhood in North Dakota, where Oster's parents owned a home-cooking Mom & Pop restaurant in Washburn ("I was born in an oven instead of a suitcase," he laughs). The restaurant provided a handy part-time job for Oster (waiter, stocker, busboy, occasional cook) and gave him a background that came in handy between theatre jobs later.

"Washburn was a great place to grow up," recalls Oster. "Small, about a thousand people, with a sense of community." He became interested in theatrics at an early age ("I remember my first role was as a turnip.")

He attended Dickson State University from 1967 to 1971, but left without a degree to hit the acting and directing circuit. Cooking and bartending helped pay the bills between assignments.

Finally, in 1979, his theatre prof and mentor at Dickinson, Gean Waldera, hired him as a guest director, then persuaded him to finish his degree, which he did in May of that year. Graduate school followed (M.A. from North Dakota State University in 1981 and MFA from the University of Utah in 1983).

When the SFA spot opened, Oster was hired sight unseen and told to be in Nacogdoches in three days. "I had only been to Texas once, and that was to Dallas," Oster recalls. "I had no idea East Texas was so green or had so many trees. I liked it here immediately."

Oster says Dr. Ken Waters "took me under his wing. He's like a father to me. He is at least 20 times more deserving of the Outstanding Teacher award than I am."

Oster followed Waters in another respect, taking over direction of the High School Summer Theatre Workshop six years ago. Waters had run the workshop for more than two decades previously. "I think it's a wonderful recruiting tool," says Oster, adding that 55 students were on campus this summer.

A committed bachelor (Oster says his ways are too staid to be changed), he still likes to cook, is "a CNN addict" and collects masks. He also is the ideal adviser to young people with itchy feet, drawing upon his own experience to keep them in school.