U.S. History teacher draws on backgrounds in international travel, theatre


Kaylee Arnett

Photo by Kaylee Arnett.

U.S. History teacher Dr. Randolph Wieck (Social Studies) is not only an expert in his field and an eccentric personality in his classes—he is also an extensively traveled and educated man. Born and raised in Louisville, Wieck graduated from Atherton High School in 1972. He then began his college education at Amherst College in Massachusetts before transferring to one of Germany’s oldest universities, Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich. After finishing his junior year there, he took a leave of absence to move to Africa’s Ivory Coast with his brother.

“My brother was studying abroad as a Fulbright Scholar, and he got a big apartment and asked me if I wanted to come down to Africa with him,” Wieck said. “So I said ‘of course,’ and I took a leave of absence from Amherst in order to learn French at the University of Abidjan and conduct research on the Ivory Coast.”

He returned to Amherst after his stint abroad as an independent scholar, and he spent his senior year writing a thesis about the Ivory Coast’s unique governmental structure.

Wieck’s extensive study of French soon came in handy, as he was accepted to the Sorbonne, one of France’s top universities. He successfully completed a doctorate in American Studies, but after years of being a dedicated academic scholar, Wieck eventually decided to move to New York City to explore his artistic interests.

“I’d always had a dramatic side,” he said. “While I was waiting for my doctoral dissertation to come over from the Sorbonne, I auditioned for and attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts for two years.”

Dr. Wieck as a senior at Atherton High School (left) and at age six (right). Photos courtesy Randolph Wieck.

While living in New York, Wieck took up residence in an apartment on 145th and Nicholas Street in the Sugar Hill neighborhood. There, Wieck had an unforgettable experience.

“Something bad had happened at the apartment complex one night, and the building was raided,” he recounted. “So, the police descended on the complex, and my roommate and I woke up to the building being surrounded. Apparently there were shots fired beforehand, because when we looked up and peeked through the window, a police officer across the street shot at us. We ducked down, and the bullet presumably ricocheted off the wall. The police went away the next morning and took a bunch of people from the building, but I will never forget that night.”

Following his theatre education in New York, Wieck joined a production company and performed in several off-Broadway shows before moving back to Europe. While living in Scandinavia, he taught at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and then at Jyvaskyla University in Finland.

Wieck also founded his own theatre company, requiring him to move to Los Angeles and take a two-year sabbatical from his tenured faculty position at Jyvaskyla. During his time in California, he joined the Screen Actors Guild, appearing as an extra in such movies as Naked Gun, Dark Skies, Independence Day and Happy Gilmore.

“I met all the stars—Will Smith and Bill Pullman and Robin Williams,” Wieck said. “When you’re in the Screen Actors Guild, you eat at the same table as the stars, but it’s understood that you don’t act starstruck—you’ll get fired. You’re really not supposed to speak to them unless spoken to.”

After two years in Los Angeles, Wieck intended to return to his professorship in Finland, but when his parents became ill, he decided to move back to Louisville to care for them. It was upon arrival to his hometown when he secured his current position as one of Manual’s U.S. History teachers.

These days, aside from his career in education, Wieck spends his free time building a legal case against the failing Kentucky Teachers’ Retirement System.  Wieck has been working on this lawsuit for about two years now, and it constitutes nearly another full-time job’s worth of personal investment. Currently, he is also working on his campaign for presidency of the Kentucky Education Association (KEA), which he seeks to win over incumbent Ms. Stephanie Winkler.

“The election will occur during the convention here in Louisville, April 1st through 6th,” he said. “Right now, it’s the campaign period, so I’ve been sending out flyers. If I became president of the KEA, I would most likely be released from my teaching, but the job would be available when I finished the three year term. The presidency would be a full time job in Frankfort.”

In what little spare time he has, Wieck enjoys traveling abroad, learning new languages, playing the piano, and spending time with his wife and two daughters.