By Theresa Goffredo Herald Writer
In its heyday, the Everett Community College Theater Department grew to be the largest community college drama program in Washington state, with many students going on to professional careers in theater.
That department was led for 31 years by Arden Flom, a man with a passionate devotion to teaching and who was known to put on his finest tuxedo and best Oscar-presentation voice to call the names of graduates at the commencement ceremony each year.
Flom died Tuesday from corticobasal degeneration, a progressive neurological disorder. He struggled for many years with the onslaught of Alzheimer’s. He was 68.
In 1988, Flom was awarded the Gold Medal of Excellence from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., for his longtime contribution to the American College Theatre Festival.
Flom also received in 1999 the Northwest Drama Conference Teacher Recognition Award given to those who have taught, promoted and sustained theater arts in higher education for at least 25 years.
Flom also served with many civic and cultural organizations such as the Everett Civic Arts Commission, the Everett Cultural Commission, the Everett Performing Arts Center Board and the Historic Everett Theatre Board.
But what Flom will be remembered for most is the impact he had on his students, who called their teacher a tough task master who inspired in them a love of the stage that was penetrating and permanent.
Victoria Walker, the former artistic director of Historic Everett Theatre, worked with Flom as his technical director at EvCC in the 1990s.
“He put that love of theater in all of us,” Walker said. “I don’t know anybody from back then who doesn’t still do theater or who hasn’t made a living out of it somehow. There are so many people I can’t even tell you. It is far reaching.”
Flom was EvCC’s director of theater from 1967 to 1998. He directed more than 173 productions at the College Playhouse, a 144-seat theater at the corner of California Street and Lombard Avenue in downtown Everett.
Walker recalled that Flom, casting a play, once gave her a part that had no lines, telling her there were no “little parts.” Walker said she made the most of it and believed she stole the show with her performance.
“Theater is all I’ve ever done for 30 years because of him,” Walker said.
In 2006 at Historic Everett Theatre, Walker directed Flom’s collaboration with John LaPlante, “Voices From the Wall,” an original script that recounts the stories of victims of the Vietnam War.
Flom attended two performances and thanked Walker with tears in his eyes.
“He cried, and he said to me, ‘You did this,’ and I said ‘No, Arden, we did this,’ ” Walker said.
Dallas Carleton, longtime owner of Display &Costume, said he prizes the period of his life when he was Flom’s technical director at EvCC from 1966 to 1976.
Carleton said Flom had the “gift of mentorship.”
“He was the pivotal person in hundreds and hundreds of lives personal and professional,” Carleton said.
“He took those energies from people and he very quietly focused and helped people find their direction in arts of all kinds,” Carleton said. “He saw light bulbs come on right and left.”
Local musician Gary Hatle, who ran for Everett mayor in 2001, was a former student of Flom’s.
Hatle said Flom’s productions, which included dramas and well-known Broadway musicals such as “Man of La Mancha,” had the quality of Village Theatre productions before Village located in Everett.
“He asked the most out of everybody, and we gave it to him,” Hatle said.
Flom is survived by his wife of 43 years, Cathy, his two children and many grandchildren.
A memorial service has been set for 11 a.m. Thursday at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 9320 Meadow Way, Everett. Donations may be made in Flom’s name to the Alzheimer’s Association, www.alz.org/index.asp.
Theresa Goffredo: 425-339-3424; firstname.lastname@example.org.