On Thursday, April 26th, the English Department threw its first ever annual Spring Homecoming. The homecoming was held in memory of former English Department Chair Timothy Dow Adams, and his wife, Professor Emeritus Gail Galloway Adams.
The daytime events took place in the Betty Boyd Lounge, located inside of E. Moore Hall, and began at 10 a.m. with a delicious light brunch.
The first event was an incredibly informative and inspirational Alumni Panel, featuring Heather Hartley, Meagan Szekely, and Tony Michael. All three alums answered questions about their careers and accomplishments, from both moderator Mary Ann Samyn, Director of the WVU Creative Writing Program, and the guests in attendance.
Heather Hartley graduated from WVU in 1993 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and a minor in French, summa cum laude, Phil Beta Kappa. She received her Master of Arts in French from Middlebury College in 1996, and is the Paris editor for Tin House magazine. Hartley is also the author of Adult Swim and Knock Knock, both from Carnegie Mellon University Press. During the panel, the poet discussed the importance of traveling, as she strongly believes in the positive influence that seeing the world can have on an artist's work.
Meagan Szekely has a Master of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing from WVU, where she also worked as a Graduate Assistant at West Virginia University Press. Szekely is currently the Marketing Manager at Naval Institute Press, and spoke at length about how much she loves what she does. She also brought an advanced reader copy of a graphic novel the is putting out later this year, titled Machete Squad, about the thrilling adventures of an army medic.
Tony Michael received a Master of Arts in English and a Juris Doctorate both from WVU. Michael currently serves as the director of the WVU Extension Service Family and Community Development program, in addition to being an Associate Professor at the WVU Extension Institute for Labor Studies and Research. Michael's advice for graduate students was simply, "Do what you love, and the opportunities will open up."
Following the panel, guests were treated to a half-hour of folk music from musicians Jake Maynard, on banjo, and Annie Stroud, on fiddle. Maynard is an MFA candidate in fiction at WVU, as well as a self-taught musician. Annie Stroud is an apprentice fiddler in the West Virginia Folklife apprenticeship program sponsored by the West Virginia Humanities Council.
Before the reading, Interim English Department Chair Brian Ballentine paid tribute to the late Timothy Dow Adams. Adams graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Columbia University, a Master of Arts in English from the University of Texas-Austin, and a Doctor of Philosophy from Emory University with a dissertation in the field of autobiography, which provided the basis for his first book, Telling Li(v)es in Modern American Autobiography (The University of North Carolina Press). He was a longtime chair of the WVU Department of English, and was passionate about his job, writing, "...I have agreed to be the chair for everyone in the department, no matter what their particular position or history."
Gail Galloway Adams was introduced by poet and Program Director Mary Ann Samyn, who shared many warm words about Adams's life and work. Adams is a Professor Emeritus at WVU, where she taught Creative Writing for over twenty years. She has received the Flannery O'Connor Award in Short fiction and has served as a reader/judge for the Flannery O'Connor Award Series, the AWP Prize in Short Fiction, the Iowa Prize in Short Story, the O. Henry Prize, and the Thomas Wolfe Prize. She was also the fiction editor for Arts and Letters: A Literary Journal, as well as The Potomac Review. Adams began the reading with a short essay about freedom from one of her students, and spoke of the importance of holding on to the student work that truly moves her as both a writer and educator. Adams shared personal work from different periods of her life, and each story was lively and full of color. Her enthusiasm about art and writing was refreshing, and she effortlessly kept the room smiling and laughing.
Spring Homecoming concluded with the MFA Graduation reading. The following students read from their thesis: Nat Updike (fiction), Natalie Homer (poetry), Jake Maynard (fiction), Maggie Montague (nonfiction), Meredith Jeffers (nonfiction), Kat Saunders (nonfiction), and Bryce Berkowitz (poetry), Congratulations to the WVU MFA Graduating Class of 2018!
The first annual Spring Homecoming would not have been possible without our Development Committee, chaired by Mary Ann Samyn, and members Tony Swofford and Nathalie Singh-Corcoran. Marsha Bissett put many hours into coordinating and publicizing the event. Until next year!