Jeffrey Paul Tangeman ’88, Hillsdale College alumnus and a successful stage director, died on Aug. 14 at age 49 from an apparent heart attack. He was at his home in York, Pennsylvania, and found by a close friend. Tangeman is survived by his parents Robert and Mary Suzanne, as well as friend Suzanne Carlson.
Tangeman was born in 1965 in Wheeling, West Virginia. After doing his undergraduate work at Hillsdale College and earning degrees in theatre and marketing, he went on to earn his master’s in fine arts from Illinois State University in Bloomington, Illinois. He taught theater courses around the country at Eastern Illinois University, Florida International University, Ithaca College, University of Alabama, and York College of Pennsylvania.
“It’s a loss that is being pretty keenly felt by his alumni and constituents,” George Angell, chair of the theatre department and friend of Tangeman, said. “There are a lot of people he was quite close to.”
Tangeman acted in many plays at Hillsdale in his day: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” and “The Clouds,” among others. During his time at Hillsdale, he was also a member of Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia. His real passion, however, was directing. He went on to act and direct in cities such as Detroit, Washington D.C., and New York.
In the spring of 1997, Tangeman returned to Hillsdale to direct “The Taming of the Shrew,” after theatre department chairman Raymond J. Pentzell — and Tangeman’s former instructor and close friend — died.
In April 1997, Angell, who had taught Tangeman when he was a student at the college, told the Collegian that, “It’s a real honor to have Jeff here. He’s a real testament of what someone from our department can achieve.”
Angell said Tangeman returned to the college often, and remained close with many peers from his class.
According to Angell, Tangeman was an eager and earnest student. He said he and Tangeman were close and he is deeply grieved by his loss.
“He was always special to me both because he was a great guy and because he went the same professional route that I did,” Angell said. “Professional directing, acting, and teaching.”
Casey Fatchett ’97, who acted under Tangeman in “The Taming of the Shrew,” told the Collegian in 1997 that, “It has been a great experience to work with a professional director. He is very organized and honest — he’s not afraid to say what he’s thinking.”
Many friends, colleagues, and former students shared shock, sadness, and memories of Tangeman. They described him as loving, generous, talented, and a man who touched many lives through his genuineness and artistic work. His sense of humor also encouraged many people.
Tangeman jokingly and humbly told the Collegian in 1997 about his claim to fame.
“You can almost see my apartment on the opening of Letterman,” he said.
“It feels wrong,” Angell said. “It’s not the order it’s supposed to go.Your students are not supposed to predecease you.”