By Steven Barker
Dr. Michael Flachmann was a man who seemingly transcended age. Walking into class with a warm smile and hair like golden thread, he taught and lived with a vitality that often matched, and sometimes even surpassed, that of his students. That he was nearing his 70s when he was my English 235 professor in the fall of 2011 was an afterthought.
Perhaps that thought, then, is what lends Flachmann’s sudden passing such poignancy. He died on Thursday, Aug 8, of a heart attack caused from a blood clot in his leg. He was 70 years old.
He was an excellent professor for CSUB. Starting at CSUB in 1972 as a specialist in Shakespeare and Renaissance literature, Flachmann enjoyed a decorated career as a teacher and author. He published over 20 books and 100 articles and won numerous teaching accolades; Flachmann was awarded the CSU Outstanding Professor award in 1993 and was named the U.S. Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation in 1995, among others.
Though someone will inevitably fill his position as a professor and director of the University Honors Program, Flachmann’s influence will never be lost on me. He was a man through whom the virtues our society finds beautiful – honesty, intelligence, modesty, patience, sincerity and compassion – flowed effortlessly. He took sincere interest in our personal lives and was a wealth of wisdom for any who needed guidance. Most importantly, Flachmann served as an instrumental figure in the lives of many students searching to understand themselves and navigate the transition into early adulthood.
Nevertheless, he is gone. But, rather than mourn the loss of a cherished friend, I take solace in that I knew Flachmann. He was my friend, and the joy and beauty which he added to my life – beauty that is relived as I write these words – far surpass the tragedy of his death.
While Flachmann dedicated his profession to Shakespeare, the poet Lord Byron encapsulates Flachmann best for me. The following is an excerpt from Byron’s epic, Don Juan:
“Between two worlds life hovers like a star,
twixt night and morn, upon the horizon’s verge.”
Flachmann was Byron’s star in every sense; from him, as from the star, we students drew strength, beauty and joy. He was an illuminating figure in my journey through my young life – and just as Byron’s star will forever glow in the distance, so too will Flachmann’s presence forever glow in our hearts, beaming into perpetuity.
Though he may be gone, Flachmann will rest peacefully. He is survived by his wife, Dr. Kim Flachmann, also a professor at CSUB, his two children, Christopher and Laura, his two grandchildren, Carter and Bennett, and generations of students thankful for his presence.