“He was a great teacher,” said Hamid Ehya describing the passion that the late Theatre Arts Professor Mohammad Kowsar taughtwith. “The thing about him was the energy he had, the knowledge he had, and the love he had for teaching and for the subject was amazing.”
Mohammad Kowsar was beloved, revered and deeply respected by the theatre community in the Bay Area. However his in influence and inspiration spread far beyond the greater San Francisco Bay Area.
He began teaching at the University of Tehran in 1973, which is where Ehya first met him, as a student of his. The legacy Kowsar left as a teacher extends across generations and borders.
“His students who stayed in Iran are some of the stars of Iranian cinema and theatre. They all appreciate what he has done and they never forget his teaching,” said Ehya.
As Ehya explained the tidal wave of his passion for theatre continues to ripple despite his passing.
“One of the best acting schools in Iran right now is run by his former students,” Ehya said. “They are transferring that knowledge and that style of teaching so his legacy continues through his students to the next generation.” Kowsar had a home in Tehran that he and his wife lived in, and he regularly made trips back and forth from San Francisco to Tehran. He would fly to Tehran at semester’s end and fly back for classes and while Ehya described him as “very private,” he noted Kowsar’s true joy was teaching.
“His love of life was his teaching. He has such a joy when he explains something to you. We were friends for 40 years, but every interaction with him it was like a teacher,” Ehya said.
“I would learn something from him and that joy you could see in his face that he was transferring knowledge from one person to another.”
Mokhtar Paki, a Bay Area visual artist, was a close friend of Kowsar’s. They had lunch together weekly for over a year. Paki spoke highly of Kowsar’s passion for knowledge and learning.
“As a friend his legacy is his treasure of knowledge,” said Paki.
His passing was shock to Paki, “Losing him as a friend it was so shocking and huge that right now it really doesn’t matter how he died.”
Among the legacies Kowsar left behind was his passion for his teaching and interest in starting a dialogue with everyone he met.
“Some people who are in a really high position are more into monologue, they just talk,” said Paki. “They don’t really listen as much. But he was very curious, somehow childlike curiosity.”
Todd Roehrman, director of the School of Theatre and Dance at SF State, knew Kowsar well during his nearly three decades at SF State and noted Kowsar’s passion for rebellious theatre.
“He loved plays featuring dissent,” Roehrman said.
Roehrman knew Kowsar well during his tenure as a professor at SF State. He described Kowsar as, “one of our most beloved faculty members.” Despite English not being his first language, Roehrman always remarked at Kowsar’s eloquence. As friends, Kowsar and Roehrman both enjoyed plays featuring swords and swashbuckling, or set in 17th century France.
“He loved plays with fake blood,” Roehrman said. He explained that Kowsar believed theatre could and should hold a mirror up to society, and that theatre could change the world. “He lived what he taught,” Roehrman said.