A Tribute to George Sorensen
Chatting With Charney
When I first arrived at TTU, the name George Sorensen still rang in the halls, not only from visiting alums, some of who are quoted below, but also from professors here who sing his praises and describe his myriad triumphs. George was known as friend, director, performer, true theatre practitioner, and gentleman, but he lived his true avocation as an educator.
This summer, George passed away and at TTU, the memories started flooding in. Past students and friends described his effect on their lives in beautiful passages. As we make way to move into a new building in less than a year, George will be remembered as one of the pioneers who helped to build this thriving program.
Below, we share sections from his obituary and just a few of the comments made by his loving students. Thank you, George, for giving the School of Theatre and Dance a legacy which will not be forgotten and for setting a standard of education we hope to maintain. As we look to move into phase one of our new building, we know that you are a big reason for our success, and we thank you, and others such as Ron Schultz, who helped us get where we are today.
From his Obituary:
George was born on October 11, 1936, in Dallas, Texas to George Wendell Sorensen, Jr. and Georgia Louise Hefner. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Education from Baylor University in 1957, a Master of Arts in Speech and Drama from University of Colorado, Boulder in 1966, and a Doctorate of Philosophy in Speech and Dramatic Arts from University of Missouri – Columbia in 1976. He continued post-doctorate education at the Warnborough College in Oxford England in 1987.
He taught secondary school in Lubbock, Texas and Abilene, Texas; Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, Texas; Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas; and Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas where he retired as Professor Emeritus in 2001. Throughout his career he worked with actors across the country as guest a director of various theatre companies.
Throughout his career, George directed over 100 plays and explored how the art of theatre influenced and impacted society – its norms, its relationships, and its influence on the future. He was recognized by various organizations with numerous honors and awards. He held many offices and positions with state and regional theatre groups – developing actors and teachers that are still impacting the arts and education community today.
George was passionate about teaching and developing future actors, teachers, and dreamers willing to take chances and make bold choices. Some of his greatest performances, however, were in his home and included his beloved granddaughter, Elisabeth.
He was proceeded in death by his loving wife of 57 years, Ruth Nell Sorensen in 2016. He is survived by his son, Jon and his caring wife Sarah; and his dear granddaughter, Elisabeth, all of Lubbock.
A celebration of life memorial service and master class will be held on Saturday, October 6, 2018 at 2:00 p.m. at the Lake Ridge Chapel and Memorial Designers, 6025 82nd, Lubbock, TX 79424. He will be remembered as a Christian, Husband, Father, Papa, and Educator. A tribute of George’s life may be found at www.memorialdesigners.net, where you may leave memories and expressions of sympathy for his family.
HONORING GEORGE SORENSEN
Dr. George Sorensen made an incredible impact on the lives of student, colleagues, and friends. Read their remembrances below.
It was an honor to receive my Doctor of Philosophy Degree from Dr. Lauro Cavazos, who not only was TTU President from 1980 to 1988, but later served as the first Hispanic in any American Presidential Cabinet as Secretary of Education for Presidents Reagan and George Herbert Walker Bush. However, the greatest honor of this ceremony was to be "hooded" by my major professor, mentor, dissertation committee chair, and a brilliant man I had known since I first took classes and was directed by him in 1966, Dr. George Sorensen. Dr. Sorensen was the most amazing theatre practitioner that I have ever known or worked with. When he became Director of Theatre at Hardin-Simmons University (HS-U) in 1966, I was a 20 year-old almost junior with a chip on my shoulder, but I knew of his reputation as theatre director at Abilene Cooper High School, where he had taken UIL One-Act Plays to the state championship for many years. His first play at H-SU was Look Homeward Angel, and I knew I nailed the audition for the lead. However, when the cast list was posted, I was assigned a much smaller supporting role. In his class that day, I glared at Mr. Sorensen the entire period, and as I was leaving, he stopped me at the door. "Jerry," he said, "I want you to know that you had a wonderful audition, but I noticed you have two evening classes, and I thought the lead role might not give you enough rehearsal time. I will make it up to you, someday."
Twelve years later, I had a master's degree, had been accepted at TTU's doctoral program in theatre, and Mr. Sorensen had become Dr. Sorensen. That fall, Dr. Sorensen directed Elizabeth I which was headed for the Kennedy Center Regional American College Theatre Festival, and the actor playing one of the leads had to drop out. I auditioned for the role and was cast. Walking across the campus the next day with George, I thanked him for casting me. "Jerry, I owed you," was his reply, "and I told you I'd make it up to you." Man, did he ever! Under his tutelage, I played leading roles in several plays, went to KCACTF regionals twice, became an Irene Ryan regional finalist, and Dr. Sorensen successfully guided my dissertation to committee approval and defense. Later, I worked professionally on stage and in film and television. He taught me many principles and concepts about theatre, but mainly, he taught me that dramatic action is "the process of change." He also brought me snickers candy bars every day of my written qualifying exams, sneaking them into the library. He was the kindest "slave driver" I ever knew, and like everyone who worked for him, I respected him immensely and loved him greatly.
Once, I asked him what he wanted on his tombstone, and without hesitation, he replied, "I loved actors." If there is ever a plaque honoring his genius, I hope that epithet accompanies the memorial.
The first time I met Dr Sorensen, I was a scared high school senior. On a tour of the campus, he invited me to join in a class and warmup on the stage. Adam Beckworth led and I partnered up with Joshua Krause as we all rolled and crawled and created together. It was thrilling and exciting for me, one who was only used to UIL one act plays and church skits. I loved that man, as we all do. I only have a few pics of him in those wonderful years, all during the magical season of The Kentucky Cycle. You are all missed.
It is with great joy that I know he is at peace. One great memory is that he liked to touch each performer literally as a gesture of connection before a show. I will always feel touched by his spirit which is now freed into the universe. Love to him. I look to the sky in awe.
There are no words. Dr. Sorensen is a big reason I am the person and teacher I am today. I'm so thankful to have had him in my life.
I still use all the lessons he taught us to this day, in theater, and in life. He was a special man, and I know I am better for having known him and learned from him. I will never forget him.
George was a terrific gentleman. We all loved and respected him.
When anyone asks me who had the most profound effect on my life, I never have to think about it. Dr. George Sorensen, my mentor, and the key to opening so many doors to self-realization and creation in the theater and thus the world for me, left this earthly “stage” on Monday after a long illness. My last communication with him was an inspiring one (as always) to go and enjoy my life. He was caring for Ruth, his wife, in her final days. He spoke of his love for his son, Jon Sorensen, and his granddaughter. His work as a teacher and theater artist is carried on by countless students, friends and colleagues who feel the same as I.
I met Dr. S when I was a child - he was my mother's BEST friend and playmate at Cooper High. They had more fun together than I knew that adults could have, and were always laughing. George allowed me and my brother from the time I can remember, maybe 7 yrs old, to be at the theatre while they were rehearsing - running through the theatre, (I am sure never quietly!), playing in the costume shop high in the loft space, and he never sushed us, letting us play and imagine.
I had Dr. Sorensen for three years when I was at Cooper High School. He literally changed my life. I was a very shy, introverted person and, through his classes, I learned to express myself (even when scared). The things I learned from him made me able to be a better teacher and communicator. He was an amazing teacher.
I realize how blessed I am that I was able to see Dr. Sorensen at my mother's memorial service in January. He looked and sounded so good. He was a very special person and mentor to me, which I have always cherished
A remarkable man whose influence will reverberate for generations.
I am broken-hearted to lose this precious man. Dr. Sorensen and I have been friends since I was a sophomore in Cooper High School and pen pals for many years.
Wishing his family comfort in this time of sorrow. I know he will be missed by so many who had the pleasure of knowing him. Kentucky Cycle was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I was, and still am, so grateful that I got to be a part of it. I cherish those memories and the time I got to spend with him.