Clowning around with a UIU professor

Following in his parent’s footsteps, Upper Iowa University-Blackhawk Center adjunct professor John Hanewall has been a professional clown for more than 20 years.

John Hanewall, a meticulous yet caring adjunct professor at Upper Iowa University-Blackhawk Center in Janesville, Wisconsin, will sometimes bring in a guest lecturer to help students see a different side of certain topics. Professor Luther Von Fritzeneric is one of those guest lecturers, though his approach to topics like stress management differs slightly from his academic peers; Von Fritzeneric wears floppy shoes and has a big red nose.

Professor Luther Von Fritzeneric

Professor Luther Von Fritzeneric

Who is this Von Fritzeneric, you wonder? Why of course, he is Hanewall dressed as a clown.


Following in his parent’s footsteps, Hanewall and his wife, Luan Hanewall, have been professional clowns for more than 20 years. Taking on the persona of Luther, Hanewall has been able to successfully integrate his passions of clowning and teaching since he joined UIU-Blackhawk Center in 2001 to instruct upper level psychology courses and supervise senior projects.

“The students that I have had over the course of 15 years have commented that having Professor Luther Von Fritzeneric is one of their most memorable moments at UIU-Blackhawk,” said Hanewall. “I love being able to utilize this gift in the classroom. Teaching has always been a passion of mine and the opportunity to be a member of UIU-Blackhawk’s talented faculty has allowed me the opportunity to continue to learn and grow both academically and personally.”

Hanewall was awarded with the Excellence in Teaching Award by UIU-Blackhawk Center in 2010. His accolades extend into his clowning profession as he has won the title for “All Around Clown” in 2008, 2011 and 2015 by the Midwest Clown Association (MCA) and was also inducted into the MCA Hall of Fame in 2007.

Many of UIU’s students are what are known as nontraditional students; they are older than the traditional college student aged 18-24. They often attend classes while balancing work, family and other responsibilities.


In addition to being presented the Excellence in Teaching Award by UIU-Blackhawk Center in 2010, John Hanewall’s accolades extend into his clowning profession as he has won multiple titles for “All Around Clown” by the Midwest Clown Association (MCA) and is also a MCA Hall of Fame inductee. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Wahl and the Janesville Gazette of Janesville, Wisconsin)

That aspect stands out to Hanewall as his wife went back to college as a nontraditional student.


“I understand the struggles and the additional work these students are putting forth, and it inspires me to make sure that my classes are interesting, exciting, fun and challenging,” said Hanewall.

Hanewall graduated from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, in 1978. He triple-majored in psychology, sociology and religion. He went on to receive his master’s degree in guidance and counseling from University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He started his career in his home state of Wisconsin, spending three years at KANDU Industries in Janesville working with developmentally disabled adults and 22 years as a social worker for Rock County, Wisconsin. In 2009, he began working for the Rock County Developmental Disabilities Board and was appointed as the director in 2011.

However, it is his teaching and the occasional appearance of Von Fritzeneric that defines Hanewall to many. He, too, has found the experience to be heartwarming and inspiring.

“My favorite part of teaching at UIU is the student interaction within my classes,” said Hanewall. “To have had students in my classroom who are now my colleagues in the human services field is extremely rewarding.”

When asked about the recent creepy clown craze, Hanewall noted that it is important to remember that just because an individual puts on make-up, a costume, and a fake nose, it doesn’t make them a clown.

“Unfortunately, some of this is related to it being the Halloween season and this is not the first time that this type of nonsense has surfaced,” he added. “True clowning is a calling and an art form. It comes with an understood set of ethics that true clowns adhere to.”


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