Curtain Falls on a CSI Original
TWIN FALLS, Dec 10, 2012 (The Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Fran Tanner, a member of the original College of Southern Idaho faculty and a teacher who touched thousands of lives, died Thursday evening. She was 79.
"Fran was our performing arts program, our speech and theater program, in the early days," CSI President Jerry Beck said Friday.
Those thousands of lives included Beck's own. When the future college president was a technical instructor and trying to get better at it, he took a speech class from Tanner.
"She didn't always tell you what you wanted to hear, but she told you what you needed to hear," Beck said. "You could always count on her to try to help you be better at what you were going to do in life."
Tanner taught speech and drama at CSI for 39 years -- from that first day the faculty assembled in August 1965, to her retirement as chairwoman of the communications and theater department in July 2004.
Tanner's health had deteriorated since a stroke last December, and she was receiving care at home, said cousin H. Richard Cook of Twin Falls. She seemed in good spirits at Thanksgiving dinner, he said, but went downhill quickly this week.
Though she stopped coaching a couple decades ago, several Northwest speech and debate coaches posted online Friday about Tanner's legacy, said professor Chris Bragg, who chairs CSI's communications department.
As a student in 1989-91, Bragg attended CSI on a scholarship to compete on Tanner's speech team.
"It was eye-opening," Bragg said. Tanner was a stickler for good articulation and enunciation, let nobody sit on the sidelines of a class, and wouldn't let a student get away with anything but his best. "Fran was ... a very stern taskmaster."
Bragg said Tanner was known and respected nationally for readers theatre -- a style in which the script becomes a part of the performance and actors don't memorize all the lines -- and she often put on readers theatre Christmas shows at CSI.
He recalled Tanner's argument with a company that published one of her books: She demanded that the extraneous apostrophe added by an editor be removed from "readers theatre." It belongs to the audience, not to the interpretive readers, she insisted.
That's the kind of perfection that others recalled on Friday.
"She was one of those people that you didn't want to disappoint," Beck said, whether you were in her class or sitting with her at a table. She was proper and made you want to do the right thing, be better, take that next step.
"She was a consummate professional. She really was," said Jerry Meyerhoeffer, CSI's president emeritus. "She was very devoted to the profession."
And her students recognized that devotion, he said. Many kept in touch with her after graduation and came back to visit.
In his days leading the college, Meyerhoeffer relied on Tanner.
"I know that Fran was one that I listened to her very much, because she had a good sense about what the college needed," Meyerhoeffer said, citing as an example her push to make speech a required subject for CSI students. "I took her very seriously."
The department that used to be only Tanner has grown to seven full-time faculty members and a number of adjuncts, Bragg said. And several of her books on speech and drama are used in colleges around the country, Cook said.
"The community," Beck said, "owes a great debt of gratitude to Fran."
Funeral services for Tanner will be at 11 a.m. Dec. 15 at the LDS Chapel at 667 Harrison St. in Twin Falls. Viewing will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Dec. 14 at White Mortuary in Twin Falls.
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