Story and Photos by Irma Cervantes, CSUB Public Affairs Coordinator
It was his first day of teaching music history and theory at Warner Pacific College in Portland, Oregon. A few minutes before class, a female student asked Dr. Louis Wildman if she could hang up a newspaper advertisement of a Polynesian dance performance on the bulletin board in his classroom. Without a second thought, he said yes, and proceeded to begin a lecture on music and dancing of classical Greece.
After class, he received an angry call from the college dean who wanted to know why he allowed the posting of a vile picture in his classroom. Wildman thought for sure that someone had posted a “Playboy-type” picture as a prank. The dean proceeded to tell him that at that college they didn’t believe in dancing, and that he was not to discuss dancing in his music history class. When he returned to his classroom, he found the posting had been torn off the wall and was on the floor with a footprint on it. Wildman was stunned that he could not speak about dancing in a music class due to the school’s beliefs.
“Teaching at this college for two years, I learned the need for academic freedom, and how precious and essential it is to teach a full and honest account of one’s subject,” said Dr. Wildman.
It is with this academic freedom that he has taught thousands of students over the last 50 years. It is those same teaching values that Wildman has used teaching educational administration at California State University, Bakersfield since his arrival to the campus in 1987. It is the fact that he has continued to support this belief for half a century that recently earned him recognition by the American Association of University Professors; whose members believe that academic freedom is the foundation of higher education for the common good.
But this honor is only one of over a dozen that Wildman has earned during his fifty years in education. Among these are the Meritorious Performance and Professional Promise Award for excellence in teaching (1989, 2000), service (1999) and research (2006) at CSUB, an award for Outstanding Teaching and Service from the California Association of Professors of Educational Administration (1998), the Outstanding California Professor of Educational Administration Award from the Association of California School Administrators (2005), the Living Legend Award of the National Council of Professors of Educational Administration in 2006, and the CSUB School of Education Leadership Awards in 2009 and 2010. In addition, he has had dozens of publications related to educational administration in local, state and national newspapers and educational journals, including a chapter in a book on organizational change published this past May by Kendall Hunt.
Teaching for five decades, Wildman says he continues to work at improving his teaching. He says his number one technique is engaging students in conversation, relating everything to what is going on in the world so that they are able to apply what they have learned to their lives. This way, they can see something that they learned being put into practice. Former students say these teaching methods were key in their college education.
“He is much different than most college professors, and has made a great impact on my life, both professionally and personally,” said Kristin Angelo, a former grad student of Wildman. “He is very passionate about education, and he instilled in me the importance of having integrity and ensuring the education of the whole student.”
Wildman says he believes in a well-rounded education, yet he says he’s disappointed that one of the biggest changes he’s seen in education is that it’s become too outcome based. “It bothers me that virtually all that is being done in education is geared to watch over results and little time is devoted to developing the talents and interests of students. In the 21st century, we need a balance between the teaching of pre-determined objectives and individual student development.”
Morgan Hicks, another former grad student of Wildmand agrees. “Dr. Wildman has instilled in me that there are two sides of education,” she said. “Yes, there is the standards side, but equally important is individual student development. This is so critical because building a well-rounded and educated student produces successful citizens in our society.”
Wildman began his career in education teaching music, and then moved on to teach mathematics in Washington State community colleges and public schools. He eventually gained administrative status as a principal then superintendent in the Pacific Northwest. At CSUB he served as Chair of the Advanced Studies in Education Department from 1991 to 1999, and again from 2008 to 2012, as well as Coordinator of the Educational Administration Program from 1995 to 2012. Every weekday morning at 7 a.m. he plays basketball with students in the CSUB Recreation Center.
The accomplished professor retired in 2012, but that hasn’t stopped him from continuing in education. He now works at CSUB as part of the Faculty Early Retirement Program, where he not only continues to teach educational administration, but also volunteers in the music department where he helps with percussion instruction. He also uses his extra time to do research. He is currently working on a study on the relationship between poverty and student achievement in Kern County.
When asked when he plans to retire full time, the 71-year-old responded, “Why would I do that? I still enjoy being here at CSUB.”