Camburn, Herbert

Herbert L. Camburn, 86, retired Head of Design at California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) Theatre Arts Department, died April 21, 2017, after a brief illness at his home in Long Beach, Calif.

Herb was born Feb. 4, 1931, in Morenci, Mich., to Elmer and Frances LaVera (Sharr) Camburn.  

Herb’s artistic talents were evident early and he was acknowledged as one of six outstanding students in his high school’s graduating class. Following high school graduation in 1948, Herb spent four years in the United States Air Force.  He was associated with the Air Force Art Department for the first year and was later transferred to the Air Force Motion Picture Department. There he received extensive training in cinematographic design at the University of California at Los Angeles.  

After his honorable discharge in 1952, Herb attended Michigan State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in art. He remained at Michigan State and in 1956 earned a master’s degree in scenery design.

Herb’s expertise included a vast array of theatrical design and construction skills, but he was also a talented artist, actor and director. Herb could have chosen only a professional path, but his passion was teaching. 

Herb was a cornerstone for the CSULB Theatre Arts Department for more than 30 years. His “tough love” teaching style not only gave his students the tools to earn a living in various fields of entertainment, but instilled in them the same fierce work ethic and quality for which he was widely known.

In his spare time Herb frequently designed for the Missouri Repertory Company, Disneyland Parades and various other theatres in the United States and London. After his retirement from CSULB Herb continued to design, sometimes working for his former students. Herb could often be found at the annual United States Institute for Theatre Technology conventions both as a guest lecturer and in a booth selling “Mother Camburn’s Paper Props.”

Herb is survived by nephews Randall Ladermann of Bluffton, S.C., and Dan Ladermann of Ft. Bragg, Calif.

Herb was preceded in death by his parents; his brothers, Frank and William Camburn; a sister, Margaret Ladermann;  and his beloved partner of 32 years, George “Michael” Gaughenbaugh.

A Celebration of Life is planned at noon July 8 at Ports O’Call Restaurant, 1200 Nagoya Way, LA Harbor, Berth 76, San Pedro, CA, 90731. Reservations are requested no later than June 20 by writing to or by calling 562/596-6859.