Stardate: English House

Chair’s Blog sounds a bit like Captain’s Log, and as a new chair I don’t exactly feel like Captain Kirk. But this kind of medium seemed the best way to keep insiders and outsiders apprised of what goes on here at the English department at Illinois Wesleyan University. It’s been a busy (which is to say, typical) fall.

English majors work hard, but they play even harder. At this year’s annual fall faculty-student volleyball game and cookout on Sunday, September 21, majors really cranked it up a notch. There were long volleys and so many spikes that you’d swear you were watching an intramural game rather than a fun contest on the front lawn of the English House—our academic “home.” Roughly 35 people attended, and those who didn’t participate enjoyed watching the spirited play, eating hot dogs and chips, and chatting it up on the spacious front porch of this Arts & Crafts style house which was built around 1907, and which has been home to the English department since 1973.

Associate Professor of English Lisa Ruddick (University of Chicago) delivered the keynote address at this year’s MUSE Undergraduate Literature Conference, which was sponsored by IWU’s Alpha Eta Pi chapter of Sigma Tau Delta, the English honor society. The conference is run completely by IWU students—one of the reasons the IWU chapter, which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2008-09, was honored by Sigma Tau Delta last year as Chapter of the Year. Ruddick spoke on “The Quality of Aliveness in Literature.” The September 27 conference featured panels and presentations from faculty and students, with five schools participating: Augustana College, St. Xavier College, Trinity International University, Wheaton College, and, of course, Illinois Wesleyan. Wes Chapman represented the IWU English faculty. Congratulations to Leila Whitley, STD Vice President and MUSE chair, and to all the executive board and membership for putting together another fantastic event! 

This fall also brought sadness, however, with Professor Emeritus Harold “Hal” Hungerford passing away. Since Hal and Lynda Hungerford so graciously sponsored alumni Irish coffees for so many homecomings, it seemed appropriate to remember him with an Irish coffee tribute at the English house during this year’s homecoming on Saturday, October 5. A number of alumni who were in Bloomington for homecoming events stopped by to share stories about Hal and his great love of books and teaching. Next time you’re in the English House, majors and minors, you can take a look at the plaque we installed on the second floor in Hal’s honor. It reads, “Harold ‘Hal’ Hungerford, Professor of English from 1969-96.” Underneath that is a quote from Hal that was provided by one of the alums:  “The problem I face with this class is that I can’t stick you on a deserted island for two years with nothing but the classics. If I could, then we could really get somewhere.” Pictured here is Lynda Hungerford (seated), who flew in from Santa Rosa, California to be with us, along with Ann and Professor Emeritus Jim McGowan and trustee George Vinyard (’71), who had fond memories of Hal. Needless to say, Hal will be missed.

On a happier note, Argus alums gathered later that Saturday to swap stories of their days working on the campus newspaper and pay tribute to former advisor Harvey Beutner and former printer-guru Bernie Gummerman. Some 35 alums attended the wine-and-cheese reception in the Cartwright Room of Memorial Center, then ambled across the hall to the current Argus office to rekindle more memories and pay a visit to The Boar (a hunting trophy that’s mysteriously been a part of The Argus office since the Seventies). Given the “igloo” of newspaper bundles the current staff is building, we’re lucky that’s all that was rekindled. Pictured here (l to r) are Chris Calvert Zippe (’02), Angela Nelden (’03), and Brian Duffy (’03), who enjoyed looking at old bound copies of The Argus.

The final major fall happening thus far was a visit on October 23 from author Tim O’Brien (Going After Cacciato, The Things They Carried), who was this year’s author in the Milner-Ames reading series sponsored by the libraries at IWU and nearby Illinois State University. Students, faculty, and “townies” enjoyed a lively Q&A with O’Brien in the Hansen Student Center, and a few lucky students got to attend a reception later in the day. Here, Caitlin Milligan (’09) poses with one of her literary heroes.