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Working with Department of English budgets, I am often reminded of Blanche DuBois’s momentous line in A Street Car Named Desire because we “have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” Indeed, the English department has been fortunate to be able to rely on the kindness of so many who have given back by putting forth funds for endowments, scholarships, and awards for our students as well as our faculty. Today, the number of department scholarships for undergraduates is eight and for graduate students twelve. Four of these have been secured just in the last year, and there are others we are working on and encouraged by. There are other acts of kindness worth noting, such as our long standing relationship with Changing Hands Bookstore where we are given space to offer readings and hold events and whose owner gives every graduating student (both undergraduate and graduate) a substantial gift card to the bookstore. Alumni and emeriti often come back to give talks and attend events, giving of their time and expertise. These are just a few of the giving back moments from which we benefit.
This will be my last Chair’s Corner. As most of you know, I am stepping down on June 30, 2013. I want to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to those of you who have been so unconditionally supportive through the years. I have valued and appreciated both staff and faculty for their excellent and innovative ideas, outstanding contributions, imagination, intellectual rigor and depth, and extraordinary hard work to make this one of the best English departments in the country. Most recently, I have been humbled by the large number of colleagues who have in person, by mail, or through email expressed their gratitude to me and their support. I thank the students for their energetic work, their commitment to this department, and their thoughtful suggestions to improve practices and spaces.
In keeping with this issue's theme of giving, I'd like to take a moment to give thanks to Maureen Goggin, who in turn gave me the unexpected opportunity to serve as the department's Associate Chair for the past two years. It's been a steep learning curve in some areas, but working with Maureen has invariably proven to be a privilege and a pleasure. I also want to give the new departmental administrators a warm welcome!
Finally, I want to recognize and express my heartfelt gratitude to Bob Sturges, my Associate Chair, for his keen insights, profound ideas, fruitful collaborations, humor, and hard, long labor. So I end as I began, recognizing that although I “have always depended on the kindness of strangers,” many don’t stay as strangers, becoming good friends and valued colleagues. I look forward to meeting new strangers and I know the Department will also benefit from other new "strangers."How do we encourage such giving back? Our efforts at "making visible the invisible" through our videos, logo and slogan, newspaper coverage, and so on help us but these are not all of what we can do. Relationships lead to the gifts of time, energy, and material. Such connections begin in our classes and in our hallways, of course. But they also begin outside in the community where we can help others understand what we do, how we do it, and why we do it. Drawing attention to our mission statement and vision on our website as well as our department literature also helps. By telling others about our work, mission, and vision, we can spark interest and find “the kindness of [new] strangers.”
Photo of Maureen Goggin by Tom Story.
Rose background image from S.B. Parsons, The Rose: Its History, Poetry, Culture, and Classification (1847). Dark pink roses are symbols of gratitude. See Kate Greenway, Language of Flowers (1900).