accents on english | spring-summer 16

Making Waves: Women, Words, and Water at ASU

alumni feature

Angie O'Neal on Leadership

Larry Ellis on Tempe in '70s

ASU Grads Making Waves

Irena Praitis on the River

accents on english

Newsletter of the Department of English
at Arizona State University

Spring-Summer 2016
Volume 19, Issue 2

Diane Escalante, Karla Elling, and Irena Praitis

This past May, the Department of English hosted its annual reception and awards ceremony, which honors spring graduates and honorees. As has become custom, the department also featured a distinguished alum from its Golden Reunion (50-year) class.

Diane Escalante (BA 1966) was the 2016 distinguished alumna. She took the podium confidently, as only a former classroom teacher, used to wrangling rowdy students, can.

Escalante discussed her journey from English student at ASU to teacher in the Phoenix Union High School district. While she retired from teaching in 2000, Escalante has remained active, most recently serving as an assistant coach for Tempe’s Na Leo ‘O Ke Kai outrigger canoe club.

This spring, the group had been unable to practice in their usual spot since Tempe Town Lake (TTL) was drained in order to replace the temporary, inflatable rubber dam (similar to the one that failed in 2010) with a permanent, hydraulic steel one.

Escalante was looking forward to resuming practice and competition in the lake once the filling was complete and is no doubt back on the water.


Karla Elling (BA 1965; MA 1968; PhD 1975)—last year’s golden alum speaker—has also been keeping an eye on TTL. The artist and former Creative Writing Program Manager collaborated on a public art project called Words Over Water with Regents’ Professor and inaugural Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Ríos. The installation is comprised of more than 600 granite tiles featuring text and images themed centrally on "water" around the perimeter of the lake.

Words Over Water tile featuring rowers Irena Praitis and Kristy Csavina. / Photo by Karla Elling.

One particular tile cleaned-up rather nicely, and inspired Elling to interview its subject, alumna Irena Praitis.

≈Read story and view the cleaned-up tile≈

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Video by Bruce Matsunaga.

Image: A granite tile at Tempe Town Lake featuring rowers Irena Praitis and Kristy Csavina has been visited many times by local birds. Photo by Karla Elling.

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