From Dean D.J. Trela

Stephen D. LandonDear Colleagues and Friends—

With profound sadness I write to announce the death of Associate Professor Stephen Landon. He died Sunday evening in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he was engaged in design work at the Black Hills Playhouse. The cause of death was a recurrence of the brain cancer that Stephen had survived for many years.

Stephen exemplified what was best about UM-Flint, the College he was part of, and the Theatre and Dance Department that was his home. He arrived at UM-Flint in 2005 as an Assistant Professor. His architecture background was immediately evident in his set design, which was widely praised and seamlessly woven into the fabric of the drama or comedy being staged. One appreciative reviewer wrote of his “sense of design economy”; of “how everything visible is there for a good reason”; and how designs supported “the actors and action of the plays first, followed up with thoughtful approaches to décor and special effects.”

These statements strike me as apt descriptions of the colleague and friend that I knew and deeply admired. Stephen was low key, quietly intelligent, dedicated first to the welfare of his students. He said no more than he needed to, and there was good reason for everything he said. He also cared profoundly about the welfare of the University and the community it was part of. When I last spoke with him before his departure for Rapid City, he spoke of his excitement about the summer’s work, but even moreso of the Fall semester to come—and the semesters and years beyond. He often said that UM-Flint was exactly where he wanted to be.

We have been fortunate—blessed even—to have this gentle man as our colleague for these past seven years. We already miss him.

Stephen’s family has not yet announced arrangements, but they will be forthcoming when available. The University will certainly arrange a suitable tribute to our friend, colleague and teacher at an appropriate time.


D. J. Trela
CAS Dean

Your message of remembrance is welcomed in the Comments section below.

Comments (43) to “From Dean D.J. Trela”

  1. You are missed.

  2. I’ve been thinking of what to put here, and I just don’t know. I am truly thankful for the time I spent with him.

  3. God Speed my friend and mentor!

  4. Words can not begin to show how much you have affected my life. You were an amazing professor that encouraged me and pushed me. I will forever miss our chats in your office about your projects, your travels, your tattoos etc. You will always have a place in my heart. May you forever rest in peace Professor Steven Landon.

  5. Stephen was a gifted artist who always expected excellence and never accepted mediocrity. His careful eye was always attuned to details I’d missed, and his challenges always pushed me to excel. His impact in the lives of all of his students will be missed.

  6. You always expected excellence. I remember when I was Stage Managing “Howl” back in 2006 and you designed a projection for the end of the musical. It was an insanely difficult part of the show to call, and it took countless times to get it right. But once it happened you took both of my hands and quietly said, “That was perfect. Thank you.” I’ll never forget that day, or the importance of striving for excellence in life. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself with me and everyone else at the university. You are truly missed.

  7. You were a point of light for me…a quiet reprieve in the stressful scene that was my time in graduate school at Wayne State. I will forever be grateful for the conversations we shared. I am bewildered and angry with myself for not keeping in touch with you. I am a better person for having had you in my life. My heart aches…

  8. Stephen, I’m really happy that one of your stops along the journey of life was at the Hilberry Theatre (Wayne State University’s graduate theatre program) and that stop involved me and so many others. I remember running into you numerous times in the hall, talking during production meetings, and sharing brief but candid and informative conversations during opening night receptions. Your brilliance both in life and in art touched so many people. Your humbleness influenced all of us as well. I’m glad that UM Flint’s community had the opportunity to have you in their company as you were in ours. Thank you for being so gracious with your time and your talent. May you rest in peace.

  9. Today the world is alil’ grayer…..Professor Landon introduced me to Frank Lloyd Wright, Roy Lichtenstein, Marcel Duchamp, Fauvism, and Surrealism….he defined my tastes in Modernism and expanded my knowledge of Art …in turn, he made my world brighter….I will always be grateful to have an enriching experience of Art and beauty because of his willingness to share his love and knowledge of the everyday aestetic.

  10. He was always a comfort to talk to and gave you confidence in yourself. He was a true educator and friend, and he will be celebrated with love

  11. We will miss you

  12. I am so sad to hear of Stephen’s passing. He was a true artist and an extraordinary person! I feel lucky to have known and worked with him.

  13. God speed to a wonderful person who will be missed for his gentle wisdom. I am blessed to have known and worked with him.

  14. I only knew you from working with you in the Theater Office, but it was great to know such a gentle, quite and caring angel here on earth. Now, you have taken another step in your life and I am sure touching many souls on your journey through time and existence as we humble humans know it to be. Anyone who knew you, even if only in passing, has know a truly great person. May your travels be great as you continue on your quest.

  15. Saddened to hear of Stephen’s passing. RIP Stephen…

  16. I had the wonderful opportunity to work with Stephen when I was stage managing The Boys Next Door at the Black Hills Playhouse. He was the scenic designer, and he was such a wonderful human being and a fantastic designer. I’m very sad to hear that he has passed. I will remember him fondly.

  17. Stephen was one of the very few professors that made an impact on my years in the department. He was truly a great guy.

  18. It is so heart warming to read the genuine remarks made by all of you….& it is an inspiration to see how many lives he touched in his dedication to a profession & the many causes he cared so deeply for. His passion for living & his kind, generous nature were, thankfully, not reserved for his profession, but resonated in his family life as well. I have many fond memories of growing up with Stephen..he was as kind & sincere in his growing years as he was in later years ~ the wonderful Stephen you all came to know. We were blessed to have his as a family member….& he will be missed more than words could ever express.

  19. Stephen was a very nice professor and he always walked around with a smile on his face; he was a joyful and beautiful man. He will greatly be missed by his students and u of m flint students.

  20. I had not seen Stephen since he was a young boy when we both lived in Charlevoix. His Dad (Dick) and especially his Mom (Ann) were my friends for many years before we moved to the Flint area. I am happy to read of the many lives Stephen has positively touched, and that he will be remembered by countless students, colleagues, and friends.

  21. Strange I was just thinking about him two days ago and wondering how he was. This is very sad. I dont know what to say. He was a wonderful person and teacher.

  22. I remember when Stephen was interviewing with some of the students and I asked in a snotty and judgmental tone, “Why Flint?” He lovingly said,”Why not Flint?” Aww. You were slow to anger and quick to love. Thank you for the constant support and care you demonstrated to all of us through your time and devotion. Heaven sure did pick a winner today. God bless you sir.

  23. Stephen was always a ray of sunshine. Perhaps one of the most present people i have ever met. When I was deciding whether or not to join the faculty at UM-Flint, Stephen asked if he could take me around Flint. Not only did he look at apartments with me (including the one in which I currently live), but he took me to his favorite places around Flint. It was raining that day. I remember he was so genuinely disappointed that I couldn’t see these places in sunshine. His enthusiasm sparkled and his patience calmed me. I went straight to school and signed my contract. In August, when I moved to Flint, I told Stephen which apartment I had chosen, he smiled with a glimmer in his eye and said, “I’m so glad that you want to live in Flint.” As orhers have written his simple(and always genuine and present) smie and “Thank you/good morning, Stephanie,” would brighten my day. Thank YOU, Stephen. Thank you.

  24. I had dinner with Stephen when he first arrived in town and saw him now and then but what I knew best was his work. More than once I walked into the UMF theater to be delighted with the set before the show even began. A skilled artist and a great loss.

  25. I had the pleasure of working with Stephen on the Executive Committee of Region III of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. I enjoyed his sense of dedication to the theatre and to students from his own institution and beyond. He gave selflessly in a time when many others are much less willing to do so. He will be missed.

  26. Where do I begin now that my brother has died? The past days have been difficult to say the least…. As I am retired Military I have always felt more than capable of handling most anything. Steve was very practical, and never let me forget that this day was almost inevitable, as the lymphoma he fought had a high chance of reoccurring. Steve said “we can all be hit by a car, but I know mine is a blue one”. Yes, I thought I would be ready for this….How absurd? What has most surprised me about my arrogance is the physical toll this has taken on me. My sleep is about as gone as my appetite, and I catch myself shuffling/stumbling along walking. I have to force myself to pick my feet up.
    WHAT HAS helped me is reading all the wonderful things that educated, articulate, thoughtful people have said/continue to say about Stephen. All the reasons I have loved, admired and cherished my brother have been repeated again and again over the past days by people I don’t know. The lives that he enriched in his life’s journey are what kept his ever present smile glowing. Please continue to share your thoughts of my brother in your travels, keeping his memory alive in your heart each time you do.

  27. Nature’s first green is gold,
    Her hardest hue to hold.
    Her early leaf’s a flower;
    But only so an hour.
    Then leaf subsides to leaf.
    So Eden sank to grief,
    So dawn goes down to day.
    Nothing gold can stay.

    I am going to miss you, my friend.

  28. I wish to thank Stephen’s family for sharing this wonderful man with the rest of us. As is evidenced by previous posts, you all know what other adjectives are encompassed by “wonderful”. I will miss our discussions about teaching very much. Stephen wanted to make the world a better place – and he did. Thank you Stephen.

  29. I only met Stephen one time, but I could tell what a gentle soul he was. My son Alex admired Stephen very much. First as a teacher, and also as the amazing talented person he was. The shows I attended at UM Flint were incredible….and the stage design, “Into the Woods” was amazing. Alex was excited that Stephen would be joining him at The Black Hills Playhouse, and was very sad when he called home to tell me Stephen was in the hospital. He did get to see Stephen one more time before he passed, and it meant a lot to him and was greatful to Stephens family for allowing him to visit. Rest in peace Stephen. I know you will be terribly missed.

  30. W. H. Auden says it best for me, in this time when no words can describe my grief:

    Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
    Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
    Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
    Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

    Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
    Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
    Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
    Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

    He was my North, my South, my East and West,
    My working week and my Sunday rest,
    My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
    I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

    The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
    Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
    Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
    For nothing now can ever come to any good.

  31. I encountered Stephen at Wayne State. His designs were elegant, his presence delightful. As a developing scenic designer he was a great source of inspiration, and a good friend.

    One spring we were working on his design for Evita. It was getting warmer outside, we were working hard in the shop, and I got the chance to work with Stephen. The heat made me want to chop all my hair off, and I flippantly asked if Stephen would. He paused, then said yes, he stopped cutting hair awhile ago, but he would cut mine for me. I then learned he was a professional hair stylist, and felt extremely honored that he would pick up his shears again. It was no salon experience, we used the shop sink and a prop chair. That haircut was an elegant, loving work of art, just like everything Stephen chose to do.

    I’m glad our paths crossed. I’m glad that his tour of this life included somewhere that I was too.

  32. So sad.
    I did not know Stephen for his art and theatre skills and I’m not sure just how we “met” but will miss him very much. Quiet and reserved, he was open in such a priceless way, with soft words and smiles that felt like they rested on wisdom, that always made me feel I was fortunate to have met him.

  33. Searched famous quotes that I thought could describe you in ways and words I could not, there are none.
    Searched for poems that I thought would help me understand your departure, there are none.
    Had you for one class in the spring of 2009 and from this point forward you have been a friend. I reflect on the last class session at the Good Beans Café and how you made us all smile. Our last conversation in November will forever remain in my heart. Wish we could have another …
    I reflect on our simple conversations and realize how fortunate I was to have a person like you in my life. You are respected, admired, and loved. I will miss you terribly!

  34. What talent you possessed. I can’t wait to go to heaven now that I know you have joined the design team.

    The quiet man looked upon the raging storm and smiled.
    The swirling colors of midnight blue were pierced with bright lights representing his peace with life.
    His depth of wisdom reflected in eyes that understood so many things that others did not -
    Simple joys of living – the colorful flowers that bloom in spring; the sun as it rises striking out onto the earth lighting our way and the gentle moon as it reaches into the sky to remind us to rest.
    Stephen – a tranquil presence reminding us that “rainbows surround us; open your eyes and embrace life”.

  36. After reading the above and although I didn’t know Stephen personally, but his brothers, I’ve felt compelled to comment. The love and respect you all had for him is no less than inspiring and brings me to tears. I can think of no better way to honor him. His memory survives.

  37. Dear Stephen, rest in peace! He was so supportive, creative, a good friend, and so intelligent…I can’t stop the tears.

  38. Stephen Landon. I have a picture of you up on a bulletin board of mine. It’s one of those ones they took of you when we were working on the set of Into the Woods. You look strong and happy. I will always remember your intelligence, your silent sunlight, your decency in an indecent world. I hope you are strong and at peace now, and rooting for us to finally get our stuff together at last.

  39. What wonderful comments about a long ago friend. We went to school together in Charlevoix and my most favorite memories are of our times together in the marching band. The world has lost a truly wonderful soul.

  40. I have so many wonderful memories of Stephen and have been trying to decide how to convey those to his family. It seems that the specific details are not important but rather it all comes down to the fact that Stephen was a kind man, generous with his talent, full of appreciation for life and those he came in contact with. He made our campus a better place and will be missed more than my words can adequately express. Even though his absence is deeply felt, I feel lucky to have known him and will cherish the many moments we shared. Rest in peace Stephen.

  41. Stephen was so much more than a brother-in-law. While I was part of his family, he was an incredible friend who taught me about love, beauty, and compassion. He could not have been a better uncle to my sons. The world will miss him.

  42. I would like to extend my most tender and loving condolences to James and the rest of Stephen’s family and closest friends, students and colleagues. My experience of Stephen was much the same as many of these reflections, yes, always smiling, so gentle. My role running the Flint Institute of Arts Art School and particularly my role as ceramic faculty, gave me insights into his deep talents, his ability to imagine and work with his hands. In fact, I was unaware of his struggles but often wondered if he was recovering from something, so this notification come as a shock. Although, after reading brother, James Landon’s, entry – doesn’t it always. I mourn with you from Detroit. What a gorgeous person – he will be missed. Thanks again Shelby N. for reaching out to share this news, I now am able to send love and energy to Stephen and his family. Peace to you.

  43. Dear Stephen,
    You were the first person to support my decision to leave Flint. I remember so clearly sitting in the lobby on the bench by the theatre office and telling you of my woes. You said “you may be small, but your personality is big. Bigger than Flint. Go find the challenges that await you in the world.” I have never looked backed, even though I missed home.
    Now I am living in China performing 6 nights a week for a packed house. Thank you for believing in me. I love you dearly. I think of you often and will always remember you.
    xoxo Mary