Adelheid Thieme (1953-2021)
She wore it well: A tribute to Adelheid Thieme
In some of my most vivid memories of Adelheid, she is wearing red, and when Adelheid was wearing something red—a red scarf, a red sweater, or a red jacket—it lit up her face and made her eyes sparkle.
In my memories, Adelheid is wearing red on one or another important occasion in our program—when she was leading one of the Writing Programs convocations, or convening the Writing Programs Composition Conference, or emceeing the Portfolio Awards Showcase. All of these were events that brought us together in conversation with one another, or with our students, or with other colleagues around the university.
These were occasions when Adelheid’s role as associate director of Writing Programs was high-profile, and she was always dressed for those occasions—often (though not always) wearing red—and she wore it well, just as she carried out those high-profile roles well.
But much of the reason those events worked so well, and were important in the life of Writing Programs, was that Adelheid not only took on the high profile role, she also did so much of the low-visibility and even invisible work of planning and preparation. She did the work of identifying topics for convocation workshops based on what she understood were shared concerns of teachers (which she knew because she listened to them), to supporting our digital portfolio project, despite a good deal of resistance from Writing Programs teachers. Much of her support lay in helping teachers learn a difficult interface, or in carefully planning the publicity for our portfolio showcases, because she listened to my concerns as program director and understood how important I thought that project was for the university community as a whole, in order to understand what we were doing in Writing Programs and how this reflected its mission.
That ability to listen—that caring for colleagues and students, that love, and energy, and even courage—are all part of why Adelheid wore red well—and why we all trusted her to wear her authority in the program well. And that caring is why, in my memories of Adelheid—and I will remember her often because I loved her and I will miss her—she’ll be wearing red.
Image: Adelheid Thieme shines in a red sweater at a Writing Programs holiday gathering in 2016. Photo by Demetria Baker.