How did you choose a career in English? During my second college semester, Thomas David Duncan Williams, a teacher brilliant and exciting, moved around the classroom during his lectures, animated, snapping his fingers, talking about ideas and unimagined people (Sartre and Camus, Dostoyevsky, Eliot and Dylan Thomas, C. P. Snow and Samuel Johnson), calling our names, celebrating learning. I knew I wanted to be like him. I changed my major to English.
Where did you get your college degrees? B.A., M.A.: Marshall University; Ph.D.: Ohio University
What’s your favorite memory of your career as a student? In addition to Duncan Williams, listening to Ruel Foster’s lectures. Large and tall, Dr. Foster spoke in the cultivated accents of the South. Having friendships with Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, and Jesse Stuart, Dr. Foster interspersed his lectures with personal conversations and experiences with these writers, making learning immediate, meaningful, and alive.
What are your research or professional interests? What are you working on now? British Romantic, Victorian, and Welsh literature. Currently, I’m studying John Ruskin’s connections with Wales.
What was your first “big break”? Being hired full time at Rio Grande. Interviewed by Dr. Ray Matura, Dr. Jim Doubleday, Dr. Jack Hart, and Professor Joanne Ford, I’m convinced I was given the job because of Joanne’s response during the interview, “I like your cherubic cheeks.”
What are some of your greatest or most recent professional achievements? Papers presented at Harvard University on the British Romantic Felicia Hemans; on Wordworth at the Royal Military College of Canada; and on the Welsh poet Ann Griffiths at Marymount University (Virginia).
When did you start teaching at Rio? Fall Semester, 1984
What subjects do you teach? Composition I and II, The Literary Imagination, British Literature from 1798 to the Present, Literature & Writing (Senior Capstone), and many other literary courses.
What is your favorite course to teach at Rio…and why? The literary courses because it is then that I come nearer to my favorite teachers—Duncan Williams, Ruel Foster, and Warren W. Wooden (another Southern professor who taught Renaissance literature)—in my dreams of being more like them.
What’s the best part of teaching? Being with students and sharing learning with them.
What’s the worst? Grading the seemingly never-ending deluge of essays, which haunt, like Charles Dickens’ nightmares of dragon-like shorthand symbols, my days and nights.
If you could spend the day with any historical figure, living or dead, who would it be? If only one, then John Keats, the English Romantic poet, who filled his life with memorable kindness, empathy, and love.
What is your: Favorite book: Walter Jackson Bate’s biography of Samuel Johnson
Favorite artist: Claude Monet
Favorite musician: Beethoven
Favorite movie: Casablanca
If you could move anywhere, where would you go? Oxford, England
Favorite quote: The Clerk in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales: “gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche.”
If you couldn’t have a career in your discipline, what would you do for a living? Work in a library
What are your hobbies (outside your professional activity)? Being with my wife and children, reading, watching films
Do you share your home with family or pets? Yes, two dogs and three cats
What’s the one thing that most people don’t know about you? I am passionate about the trumpet and aspire, although failing completely, to sound each day more like the mellow grace of Bobby Hackett, the American jazz musician.