NORMAN — Steven Arthur Draheim, esteemed professor of lighting design in the Helmerich School of Drama at the University of Oklahoma, passed away Saturday, Aug. 3, 2013, after a long and valiant battle with cancer. Steve was surrounded by immense love from family and friends at the time of his death.
Steve was born Sept. 26, 1963, in Phoenix, Ariz. to Stanley and Aldora Draheim, the fourth of four treasured children. The family soon relocated to Minnesota, where he grew up playing football, running track, and became an avid cross-country skier. He attended Mora (Minnesota) High School and graduated with the class of 1982. A self-described “rabid Minnesota Twins fan,” one of Steve’s favorite things was enjoying a game and a cup of coffee with his best friend and father, whom he lovingly referred to as “Pa.”
Steve completed his BFA in theatrical design from the University of Minnesota-Duluth followed by an MFA from the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. He spent his summers at the Interlochen Arts Camp in Michigan where he served as a resident designer.
Steve had an extensive career as a professional lighting designer before discovering his love for teaching. He taught at Augsburg College (Minn.), Alma College (Mich.), Montclair State University (N.J.), and Bucknell University (Pa.) before joining the Helmerich School of Drama family at the University of Oklahoma in 2003. Subsequently, Steve began serving on the technical support staff of the Oklahoma Arts Institute located at Quartz Mountain, an organization he was immensely invested in. He was a member of the BKRJ and Alpha Psi Omega, the national honorary theatre fraternity.
Steve was a gifted and loved teacher who taught across the curriculum in the School of Drama, including basic stage lighting, lighting design, lighting styles and computer aided drafting (CAD). He had a special gift to encourage and inspire his students to see things in a fresh way, to apply new methods and challenged them to expand their perceptions.
Madeleine Borg, 2013 graduate wrote, “Steve was one of the most selfless and inspiring people I have ever met. He always put his students first and believed in us even when we were at our lowest point. He will always be the part of us that pushes us to achieve what we thought was impossible.”
A 2011 graduate added, “We lost not just a professor, mentor, and friend; Steve had more to share as an amazing human than merely lighting theatre. ‘Learning to light is learning to see,’ he told his students. We all see life more beautifully because of you, Steve.”
Senior lighting design major, Emily Maddox, wrote, “As you know, light travels faster than any other thing in the known universe, it gives us and our planet life, and it is an incredible source of energy. It is fitting then, that someone with such energy, someone so bright and full of life and warmth as you should become a lighting designer — literally controlling and directing one of the most important elements to life and our existence here on earth. And it is perhaps even more fitting that you should become a teacher, because light inspires growth in all living things it shines on.” The many students that were lucky enough to study with Professor Draheim over the years are his legacy and his gifted design talents will live on through them.
In addition to teaching, Steve served the University on the Dean’s Faculty Advisory Committee, design and production area coordinator, various search committees, the season selection committee and as a representative on student recruitment events.
Formally trained as a scenographer, Professor Draheim’s contributions to university theatre are too numerous to list. But some of his highlights and personal favorites include his lighting designs for Hamlet, Sunday in the Park with George, RENT, The Scarlet Pimpernel, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and his final design, implemented by student Brad Grey, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui.
Scenic designs included A Chorus Line, The Rimers of Eldritch, You Can’t Take it with You, and The Laramie Project. Steve also mentored and advised countless student designs over his tenure with us, helping his students discover their own creative vision and voice. Tom Huston Orr, director of the School of Drama said, “Steven was a tremendous asset to our faculty; a great educator and artists who will be deeply missed. He was an integral part of our organization, a leader and valued friend. It will be extremely difficult moving forward without him.” Regent Max Weitzenhoffer, Tony Award winning graduate of the OU School of Drama, added, “Professor Draheim was a significant asset to the school. He helped to reinvent our design and production area, resulting in a program with a national reputation for excellence. I enjoyed his work in our theatres many times”
Steven’s greatest creation and proudest accomplishment however, is his daughter, Allison, whom he affectionately called “Peanut.” Literally raised in the School of Drama, Allison helped her father with design projects and appeared in numerous productions. She loved, inspired and made him laugh throughout their time together.
On June 4, 2011, Steve married his soul mate and life partner Jennifer Hatfield Draheim. Though only married for two years, Jennifer brought immense happiness to Steve. Jennifer was Steve’s strength and encouragement following his diagnosis and the subsequent medical challenges. Steve’s family and friends wish to thank Jennifer for standing strong and loving Steve as he fought this brave fight.
Steve continued to inspire his students, colleagues and family through the way he faced this difficult situation. Steve never complained, asked “why me?” or lost faith as he fought the good fight against his disease. He often times assumed the role of comforter and supporter to others who were having difficulties after learning of his illness. We can follow his example of bravery as we face the challenges of our own lives on a daily basis.
Steve is survived by his wife, Jennifer; daughter, Allison; mother, Aldora; four-legged friend, Dot; sisters, Charlotte (David) Ellison and Shannah (Randy) Peterson; brother, Charles (Jean) Draheim; nephews, Justin (Mallory) Graham-Ellison, Benjamin (Elizabeth) Peterson and Brad Peterson; nieces, Kristin (Rick) Willers and Michelle Peterson and her fiancé’ Jake Calleja; great nephews, Andrew, Michael and Luke Peterson, and Wyatt Willers; parents-in-law, Warren and Gretchen Hatfield; and brother-in-law, Dan (Ro) Hatfield.
Steve was preceded in death by his best friend and loving, devoted father, Stanley “Pa” Draheim. Steven’s remains will be transported home to Minnesota where he will be interred with his father.
A Celebration of the Life of Steven Draheim will be 7 p.m. Thursday at in the Rupel Jones Theatre, located at 563 Elm Ave. on the OU campus. There will be an opportunity to share memories and stories and a reception will follow. Brightly colored attire is encouraged. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the OU Foundation designated for the Steven Draheim Lighting Design Scholarship.
Norman Transcript, Monday, Aug. 12, 2013