Lawrence A. Wallman joined the Fairmont State faculty as a Professor of Speech and Drama in 1929, when the institution was known as the Fairmont State Normal School. Throughout his career, Wallman served as Director of Theater, Chair of the Speech and Drama Department, and as Faculty Advisor to the Tau Beta Iota fraternity. He was dedicated to his students and passionate about his work – so much so that when Fairmont State’s Town & Gown Players first launched in the summer of 1960, he, along with fellow professor Jo Ann Lough, was the driving force behind it.
The Town & Gown Players was a trailblazing group, as it was the first program of its kind in West Virginia. It began with one production that summer: a British comedy called “The Reluctant Debutante,” directed by Lough. They performed in the Hardway Hall Auditorium for three successful seasons before the building’s renovation left the troupe without a home. Rather than take that summer off, Wallman found a solution: he purchased a “dry-rotted, blue and tan tent,” which was set up in a parking lot near the library.
Though it was never intended to be a long-term arrangement, the Town and Gown Players continued performing in the tent for almost ten years. Four shows were presented each summer, many of which ran for ten nights. When the building now known as Wallman Hall opened in 1973, the Players found their permanent home on campus and began performing in its 400-seat auditorium. Since then, they have also presented shows in the Prickett’s Fort Amphitheater, the Gaston Caperton Center in Clarksburg, the Thomas Community Center, and several other venues throughout North Central West Virginia.
Lawrence A. Wallman’s career at Fairmont State spanned more than four decades. During those years, he wrote and/or directed more than 200 productions for the school and the community. In 1980, the fine arts building was renamed Wallman Hall in honor of his enduring legacy and his dedication to the school and its students. Additionally, in recognition of his service and commitment to the Tau Beta Iota Fraternity, the TBI Turley-Wallman Scholarship was established in 2001 by a group of TBI alumni and stands today. It is a fully endowed scholarship, with funds maintained by the Fairmont State Foundation.