Beneath the cloak of a professor

Aris Showers, IV Leader Opinion Editor

He leaned back comfortably against the back of his chair, wearing a teal colored shirt with eyes of a similar shade that lit up with delight as he spoke. The backdrop of the office revealed an actor behind the cloak of a college professor.

Norman Engstrom, IVCC professor of Speech, Music Appreciation, and Theatre, is no ordinary teacher.

He has a well-rounded education with a Bachelors of Art in Music Education and Arts Theatre, also a Masters in Acting.
Although Engstrom has been a professor at IVCC for the past 15 years he has a love for acting that surpasses his teaching career.

Engstrom’s strong background in theatre has led his two daughters into careers similar to his own. One directs musicals at her school where she teaches English and the other is in film production in New York City.

“They’ve been watching me act since they were 2 years old,” said Engstrom.

Engstrom currently resides in Spring Valley, Ill., where he enjoys reading Nelson Demille spy books. Once he’s done teaching for the day he enjoys listening to music, his favorite musician is the opera singer Luciano Pavarotti. Engstrom also likes to hike at Starved Rock. Over the last 10 years Engstrom has expanded his hiking expenditures to Arizona where he vacations. The life of a professor appears tame compared to what it could have been if he continued acting full-time.

Lights, camera, action. Engstrom remembers a fascinating audition for a part in a chorus for a Swedish play. Engstrom recalls being told by three different directors what each was looking for: “I want to see if you can learn music fast,” said the musical director. “I want to see if you can act,” said the play director and then the producer announced, “I want to be able to hear you…”

Engstrom didn’t get the part even though he’s 100 percent Swedish.

Engstrom avidly watches the television series “Limitless” that stars his favorite actress Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, during his acting days they obtained their Screen Actors Guild union cards together in Chicago.
“She got called off to stardom and I came to IVCC,” said Engstrom.

Engstrom will be hanging up his cloak as a professor after the upcoming first session of the summer semester. He plans to return to acting.

“I still have enough brain power, physical strength to do it for another few years,” said Engstrom.

One of the first things Engstrom plans to do before he gets back into acting is sell his house and buy a new one in Arizona where he plans to reside in retirement.

Despite having two grandsons, his daughter gave her approval for him to move out of state.

IVCC students have fond memories of Engstrom. “Opening night he gave roses to the cast and crew,” recalls Perla Escatel who has performed in productions with him.

Engstrom was asked what he’ll miss most about being a professor: “The students and especially when students are successful and learn something in my class and can demonstrate it.”