Eccentric one-man fashion show raises money for math club

When the top fashion models retire from their trade, they often become talk show hosts, cosmetic spokespersons or entrepreneurs. In the case of math professor and fashion model Rick Luttmann, retirement will entail traveling abroad as well as writing mathematical papers and textbooks.

To be fair, Luttmann is not a professional model, but the opinionated instructor has been the exclusive stage model for each fashion show presented by the Sonoma State Math and Stats Club since the late 1990s. Now in his 44th year and final semester of teaching at Sonoma State, Luttmann recalls being featured in a half-dozen earlier fashion shows. This show was appropriately titled, “The Final Luttmann Fashion Show!”

“I have an eclectic wardrobe and wear suits everyday … some conventional, some not,” said Luttmann. “Students came up with the idea of a fashion show as a fundraiser for the Math Club, and they coordinate all of the arrangements.”

The two-hour fashion show consisted of 10 outfits from Luttmann’s extensive collection of suits, jackets, slacks, shoes and accessories. In a word, Luttmann’s fashion sense is “outrageous.”

Master of ceremonies Rachael Staudt, a graduating senior with an applied mathematics major and art minor, recalled her first impression of Luttmann. 

“I didn’t know Elton John had given up his singing career and was teaching mathematics at Sonoma State,” said Staudt.

A few of Luttmann’s fashion ensembles were riveting:

Outfit No. 6: purple suit with purple shirt, purple cufflinks, purple necktie (Māori design, New Zealand), amethyst tie tack, charoite pin, Hopi dancers on a silver-inlay belt buckle, amethyst and ruby ring, lavender jade ring and purple-gold shoes (background music: “I’m Sexy and I know It” by LMFAO).

Outfit No. 8: red and black jacket, white satin slacks, red-and-white candy cane striped shirt, red-white-gray-maroon tie, coral tie tack, fossil ivory rose pin, coral petite point conch belt, coral petite point ring, rose tourmaline ring and red shoes (background music: “Foxy Lady” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience).

Outfit No. 10: white formal jacket, black slacks, black shirt, white jacquard tie, piano keyboard tie bar, Aleut fossilized ivory rose lapel pin, black and white oxford shoes, hematite ring, Kachina ring, belt buckle with Zuni gemstone inlays and a black fedora (background music: Ma Ho Ree, Thai classical music).

Approximately 75 guests attended the fundraiser and enjoyed a variety of homegrown entertainment during Luttmann’s wardrobe changes.

“This exceeded my expectations,” said math professor Martha Shott. “It is way more fun than I could have anticipated.”

Interstitial entertainment included humorous poetry readings, skits poking fun at other students such as COMS majors and “The Mathematic Family Feud,” a game show between math and non-math majors.

Staudt read quotes from math professor Jerry Morris, the co-winner of the SSU Excellence in Teaching Award for the 2013-2014 academic year, that brought cheers during two wardrobe changes:

“That’s what made the dinosaurs extinct; me talking math to them.” 

“Beautiful proof of something, but not what we’re trying to prove.”

“We’ve done what mathematicians like to do — we’ve shown it has a solution — but we have no idea what that actually means.”

Jennifer Ganeles, a junior majoring in math with a secondary education concentration, sang an A cappella version of “My Funny Valentine” while Math and Stats Club President Jacob Holman performed a solo baritone horn rendition of “Part of Your World” from “The Little Mermaid.”

“Fundraising supports the food and beverages served at Math Club functions and allows us to purchase promotional tools such as T-shirts,” said Holman, a senior with a dual major in statistics and pure math. 

He also said the club provides community for math majors and produced the Pi Mu Epsilon Mathematics Conference at Sonoma State in October 2013 that was attended by students and faculty from other colleges.

Holman believes Luttmann, a longstanding and outspoken critic of SSU administrators, is popular among math students for two distinct reasons.

“Dr. Luttmann will spend a long time working on difficult math problems for his own edification and for sharing with his students,” said Holman. “He also thinks of math as an art form, and believes that some really profound things can be achieved through working with math.”

Most notable among these math and stats students and faculty is their friendship and sense of community that warmed Ballroom D of the Student Center.

This group also has an exponential fun quotient. Perhaps the festive occasion was the source of their humor, or the seriousness of their studies unleashes equal and opposite reactions.

Luttmann said the math department is throwing a huge retirement party for him and two other retiring professors, Barnier and Mendez, at the end of the spring semester.

Looking for a great time on campus? Then find out where the math and stats people are hanging out and party down with them.