Finding heroes at ACU isn’t hard. But for those on the lookout, Dr. Lewis Fulks would make a good one.
Fulks died Sept. 19 at Hendrick Medical Center at the age of 77. He taught theatre for 44 years – 30 of those while leading the theatre program. More than 500,000 people saw his shows, from the Wizard of Oz, to his final production, Man of La Mancha, which some call his greatest ever.
The husband, artisan and visionary proved himself worthy of imitation. Men who paid tribute to Fulks during a memorial service Tuesday, such as Dr. Royce Money, president of the university; Dr. John C. Stevens, chancellor emeritus; and Charles Trevathan, instructor of sociology; testified of Fulks’ merit as a hero in several arenas.
Most students at ACU will be married someday, and Fulks’ example in this arena could guide them towards wisdom. His love for his wife, Jerelene “Jerry” Warren, whom he married in 1949, became a common denominator in the speakers’ comments. Dr. Eddie Sharp, preaching minister at University Church of Christ, described Fulks as “known for being overwhelmingly in love with his wife.”
Fulks and his wife would have regular breakfasts at Towne Crier and have long, deep conversations, Sharp said. People who knew Fulks saw that his wife took priority, second only to his relationship with God, Money said.
Although he developed an exemplary relationship with his wife, Fulks also found time to become an artisan worth imitating. When he announced his plans to retire Jan. 1, 1991, “consternation set in,” wrote Stevens in a tribute that Sharp read, “…because he was ACU theatre.”
Trevathan described Fulks’ love for quality theatre as “consuming,” and his hatred for poor theatre as “ferocious.” Fulks was an “extraordinarily driven professional – a dedicated man of high expectations,” Trevathan said.
Fulks expected wonderful things from his students, Money said. Even when productions exceeded most colleges’ standards, he pressed his students for more. Money suggested that perhaps Fulks “marched to a different beat” than those around him.
While producing 187 shows from 1948 to 1990 and raising more than $2 million during his tenure through student productions, Fulks managed to rise above the present as a visionary.
Fulks had the gift of inspiring, said Adam Hester, chair of the Department of Theatre, and he passed to others his “unstoppable tenacity.” During planning of each Homecoming musical, Fulks would create a scale model of the set and treat his colleagues to a glimpse of his vision.
Hester described Fulks as ACU’s Don Quixote; he saw things not as they were, but as they should have been.
Many, Trevathan said, “upon hearing of the passing of Lewis Fulks, had to pause, perhaps look out the window for awhile … because great teachers are like that.”