Friends and Donors

We are extremely fortunate to be recipients of endowments and other gifts from our alumni and friends. Here we feature a few and express our gratitude to each and every person who has given financially to our department.

Mary Williamson Avery

Emmett Avery and Mary Williamson Avery served the State of Washington for over half a century, contributing greatly to its body of scholarship and leading the way for other Washington State University (WSU) scholars, in turn, to leave their own marks behind. Emmett was a prolific scholar who conducted his research mainly in London at the British Museum. He spent the summers of 1932 and 1938 in London, and in 1949-50 was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship that allowed him a year in London. He spent the summer of 1951 at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., on a fellowship, and returned again to London on sabbatical during the spring semester of 1954. During these stays in London, Mary, already a well-known Pacific Northwest historian, worked in the archives of the Hudson’s Bay Company while their daughter, Charlotte, attended boarding school in England. The Averys authored many books, including The London Stage, 1660-1800 (Emmett’s crowning achievement) and Washington: A History of the Evergreen State (Mary’s widely used textbook about Washington State). Avery Hall, where the English Department is housed, is named for the Averys. The Emmett and Mary Avery Writing Awards are given to English majors and other undergraduates in lower- and upper-division writing and literature classes are eligible for these annual awards on a nomination basis only. Papers are submitted to the competition by decision of individual English instructors.

Charles Blackburn

Charles Blackburn attended Tekoa High School and graduated in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression. Blackburn worked as a typist, he sold silk hosiery door-to-door, and for a time in 1935, was in the Civilian Conservation Corps. All the while he dreamed of getting to college—the one all-consuming goal in his life. Yet, he lacked the funds and an understanding of college admission procedures. In 1936 he started work at the the West Coast Lumberman’s Association in Seattle and, while working part-time and he enrolled at the University of Washington. In the fall of 1947, he attended Yale University to complete his PhD. In 1951 Blackburn joined the English faculty of Washington State University. He served as Chair of the Department of English from 1956-1957. The Charles Blackburn Postdoctoral Fellowship is awarded to a student who has received a WSU PhD in English or American Studies and shows promise in the profession of literary studies, as indicated by the outstanding quality of the dissertation, has demonstrated overall academic achievement and outstanding teaching performance.

Lewis E. Buchanan

Lewis E. Buchanan taught in the Department of English from 1929 to 1969 and served as Chair from 1947 to 1960. He died in La Jolla, California on February 14, 1993. Dr. Buchanan was responsible for beginning the PhD program in American Studies at WSU and his critical work centered on the poetry and fiction of the colonial author, Timothy Dwight. He served on the editorial board of Western American Literature, reviewed books for the Pacific Northwest Review, and was book review editor for The Spokesman-Review for a number of years. He also directed numerous dissertations. The last of these were published as books: Vardis Fisher’s Poetry by Doris Grover, and Sylvia Beach and an American Bookstore in Paris by Noel Riley Fitch. Dr. Buchanan’s first wife, Elsa, served on the music faculty at WSU and died in 1971. With his second wife, Stella G. Buchanan, Dr. Buchanan established the Lewis E. and Stella G. Buchanan Distinguished Professorships in the Department of English.

Murray Wright Bundy

Murray Wright Bundy received his PhD at Cornell University in 1920. From 1920 to 1928 he taught at the University of Illinois, and in 1928 he came to Washington State College as a professor and head of the Department of English. From 1947 until his retirement in 1956 he was State Professor of English. He published widely in his field, especially on Milton, Shakespeare, Elizabethan psychology, and views of Plato in the Renaissance. He was noted for his seminal work, The Theory Of Imagination In Classical And Mediaeval Thought, and this work is still cited today. He died on February 26, 1989, at the age of 97. The Department of English Bundy Reading Room is named in his honor. The Murray W. Bundy Scholarship is given annually to outstanding full-time junior or senior English majors committed to a career in secondary teaching.

DJ Lee (left), student (center), Alex Hammond (right)

Alex Hammond retired in 2009 from 34 years in the WSU English Department where he was a teacher and scholar of American Literature, editor (along with Jana Argersinger) of the scholarly journal Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism, Undergraduate Studies Director, Vice Chair and Scheduler, Interim Chair, frequent commentator in the Faculty Senate, and an unflagging supporter of others in the department and the university.  Alex was a favorite professor among his students and a favorite colleague among his peers. As Professor Emeritus, Alex continues his research into the work of Edgar Allan Poe, building on decades of scholarship into the life and writings of Poe. The Alexander Hammond Professional Development and Achievement Award is presented to the student who has shown steady, consistent, and remarkable professional growth and achievement over her or his completion of the PhD degree. Students may be nominated by their dissertation directors or other mentors; self-nominations are also encouraged. The recipient of the award is chosen by the Director of Graduate Studies and Department Chair in consultation with the Graduate Studies Committee.

Basil and Ella Alexander Jerard attended Washington State College in the early 1920s and married. Neither of them was an English major, but they attended English classes together, and they particularly enjoyed the English Department’s Shakespeare class. They married and Basil became successful in business (engineering). They wanted to do something meaningful for Washington State University, and they chose to endow the English Department because of their pleasant memories. The Basil and Ella Jerard Endowment enables the department to fund travel for faculty and graduate students and assist with research projects on a scale that would otherwise be unavailable to us. The Basil and Ella Alexander Jerard Scholarship is given to outstanding, full-time English majors on the basis of merit (or a combination of merit and financial need).

Nicolas K. and Karen H. Kiessling

Nicolas K. Kiessling received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin in 1967 and began his teaching career at WSU in that year. He retired in 2000. He taught numerous courses, mainly from the Old English period to 1700. His published books were on three topics, the incubus in English literature, Robert Burton’s library and his The Anatomy of Melancholy, and the life and library of the Oxford historian, Anthony à Wood. In 2006 he and his wife, Karen, the first female mayor of Pullman, Washington, established the Nicolas K. and Karen H. Kiessling Endowment. Its purpose is to provide the opportunity for undergraduate English majors on the Pullman campus to spend time in a foreign country in which English is not the native language.

John B. Lord was born in Evanston, Illinois on March 5, 1917. He died in Lacey, WA, in November 2002. John Lord, usually called Jack by his friends, received his PhD in English at the University of Illinois in 1950. He came to Washington State College in 1951 and taught a wide variety of courses in English literature and linguistics ranging from Old English, Beowulf, Shakespeare, and the Bible as Literature to English Syntax and Phonology. His research interests were mainly in the field of linguistics. He was the first person in the department to make use of computers for research projects and in 1978 during a semester of professional leave applied his own computer programs to analyze prosodic patterns of poetry. Jack retired in 1981 and in 1993 moved to a retirement community in Lacey, WA. He maintained his research program and in 1994 published the third part of a large three-part article in Language and Stylistics. Elizabeth Lord established the J.B. Lord Memorial Endowed Scholarship in English in 2002.

The Anita and Richard McDonald English Excellence Endowment has been established to honor Anita and Richard MacDonald, who met while studying at the State College of Washington (WSC). They were married after Anita finished her degree in English in 1956, and she taught in Pullman while Richard finished his degree in Speech Communications in 1958. They settled in Western Washington, where Anita taught for over 30 years in the Sumner School District, primarily Junior High English. Anita also enjoyed music, performing in the WSC marching Band, playing the piano, and teaching flute lessons. Both Anita and Richard enjoyed musical theatre and symphony performances. After serving in the military, Richard worked for decades in media production for the University of Washington (UW), particularly as a media production expert and supervisor for the University’s Experimental Education Unit. In addition to his work at UW, Richard also maintained police and fire radio systems for the City of Sumner. The McDonalds, who were married for nearly 50 years, made the mutual decision to support Washington State University (WSU) through their estate plans. Both were very satisfied with their WSU educations. Their generous bequest to WSU will support English, Music, and Communications, specifically broadcast/media production.

Avon J. Murphy

Avon J. Murphy received his English MA at WSU and a PhD in 17th-century English literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been a college professor, a technical communication program director, the Washington Legislature’s technical writer, a freelancer, and a contractor editing software and operating systems documentation at several high-tech firms, especially Microsoft Corporation, where he was senior editor for several products. He is a champion of strong English programs, a Society for Technical Communication Fellow, and the long-time Book Review Editor for Technical Communication, STC’s quarterly research journal. Now semi-retired, Avon runs Murphy Editing and Writing Services in Lacey, Washington, specializing in the development and editing of websites, articles and books on computer technologies, and mystery fiction. His New Perspectives on Technical Editing (Baywood Publishing) is scheduled for release in 2010. In 2005, he endowed the Avon Murphy Graduate Fellowship in English.

Harold (“Ole”) and Jeanne Rounds Olsen both graduated “With Highest Honors” from The State College of Washington (WSC) in 1942. Harold went on to earn the LLB (Bachelor of Laws) from Harvard Law School in 1948 and served with the Seattle Law Firm, Perkins Coie, where he was managing partner from 1977 to 1985. Jeanne’s career included work as a journalist for The Seattle Times, as an Information Specialist with the U.S.D.A. Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics in Washington, D.C., as an instructor at Simmons College in Boston, and as a freelance writer and volunteer publicist. The Olsen’s history of support and dedication to Washinton State University (WSU) is as admirable as it is extensive. Since January 1957, the Olsens have been actively involved as donors and leadership volunteers. In January 1994, the Olsens initiated the Harold and Jeanne Rounds Olsen Writing Across the Curriculum Fund, which continues to help bolster national recognition of WSU’s writing programs.

Eva Feryl Peterson (nee Smith) taught English, speech, drama, and debate in Minnesota and Idaho high schools. She also owned a grocery store, a resort motel, and was a Fuller Brush saleswoman. She moved to Lewiston in 1956 where she decided to write her novel of historical fiction set in Lewiston in 1864. She had worked with Nez Perce Indians for much of her career and was interested in setting up a scholarship fund that would assist young Native American women. Providing opportunities for other young women was of high value to her. The Eva Feryl Peterson Fellowship for Native American Women is meant to support graduate students from the Northwest Indian Nations.

Jennie Brown Rawlins

Jennie Brown Rawlins graduated from Rigby High School as Valedictorian in 1938 and continued her education at Weber State College in Ogden where she attained her education certificate. She was the mother of two children: Lane, who went on to become the ninth president of Washington State University, and Barbara. Jennie once said, “When my children were teenagers, and I had more time to myself so I began thinking that if I didn’t try writing I would never know whether I could have succeeded at it or not. So I tried my hand at it. It was the most absorbing thing I had ever done.” Jennie went on to develop her talents as an author and became one of Idaho’s most prominent writers and was named Idaho’s Writer of the Year for three years. Her book High Button Shoes was a fictional account of her childhood days on a pioneer farm. She had not only novels accepted and published but a book of thoughts, a textbook and many poems, children’s stories, and crossword puzzles. Her daughter Barbara said, “She had a gift and a passion for writing. She pursued it, as she did everything else, with great gusto. Her pen was like a paintbrush for the mind. She worked hard at whatever she did. She said writing is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration. That is the reason for her success.” In 2003, Jennie’s children set up the Jennie Brown Rawlins Scholarship in Creative Writing, which is awarded each year to an undergraduate English Major whose focus is Creative Writing.

Louise Schleiner

The Schleiner Awards were established in memory of Louise Schleiner, who had her PhD from Brown University and came to us from the University of California at Davis, where she had taught. In our WSU English Department, she had the rank of Professor and held our Buchanan award, also serving as Director of Graduate Studies. She published the following books: The Living Lyre in English Verse: From Elizabeth Through the Restoration (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1984); Tudor and Stuart Women Writers (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994); Cultural Semiotics, Spenser, and the Captive Woman (Bethlehem, PA: Lehigh University Press, 1995). She published many articles, such as “Ladies and Gentlemen in Two Genres of Elizabethan Fiction,” SEL: Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, Vol. 29,1 (Winter 1989): 1-20. She was also a creative writer who wrote many poems and religious and philosophical essays. The Schleiner Book Award goes to students who pass the PhD Qualifying and Preliminary Examinations with distinction. Students who must travel to collections to conduct research necessary to the dissertation may apply for the Schleiner Research Travel Award.

April Seehafer

When April Seehafer‘s parents were first married, her father worked as a truck driver and her mother was a bank teller. Each week her mother would drive from their home in Yakima to pick up her father in Seattle after he had been on the road hauling produce between Canada and California. They would collect any food (potatoes, onions, etc.) that was left behind on the truck and that would be the basis of their meals for the next week. A few days later her mom would drive her dad back to Seattle for his next haul. They both knew they wanted their daughters to have an easier life than they had, and they knew the gateway to greater opportunities was through higher education. April and her sister were the first in their family to graduate from college. They both earned their bachelor’s degrees from WSU. After years and years of hard work and determination, April’s father eventually owned the trucking company. When it came time for him to retire, he sold the company, and together the Seehafers wanted to recognize the institution where their daughters had received their educations and to help other families open the doors to the endless possibilities that an education offers. April’s parents have said several times “We always thought the girls were well taken care of by WSU” so when they were in the position to help “take care of” the institution, they were delighted to give back. They set up the April Seehafer Scholarship, which is awarded to an undergraduate female student majoring in English/Business or English/Pre-Law, as well as to general English majors.

Ruth Slonim

Ruth Slonim, who taught twentieth-century literature and contemporary poetry in the WSU English Department for 36 years, published four books of poetry: London: An American Appreciation; San Francisco: “The City” in Verse; Outer Traces, Inner Places; and Proems and Poems (Pulitzer Prize Nominee). She was a beloved teacher to two generations and an acclaimed poet whose fourth book of poetry was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She studied poetry with the Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz and personally knew great writers of her time, including Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Louise Bogan, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and W. H. Auden. She shared programs with the likes of Stephen Spender and Auden, and she spoke at Cambridge University and at Trinity University-Dublin, and many other prominent places, about poetry. Her poetry also appeared in such venues as Botteghe OscureInternational Who’s Who in Poetry Anthology, and The Sounds of Pacific Northwest Poetry. The Ruth Slonim Poetry Corner in Holland Library commemorates her professional achievements and her service to the university community. For many years, she was in charge of officially hosting well-known writers to speak on our campus—including W. H. Auden, Louise Bogan, and Gwendolyn Brooks. She worked with other well-known authors to help Ezra Pound in his later years. She was WSU’s Outstanding Faculty Woman (1965) and the first woman to give the Distinguished Faculty Address (1967). She was an invited speaker to major national conferences, including the AAUP, the scholastic honoraries Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Kappa Phi, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Besides teaching in our department, she held visiting professorships at the University of Puerto Rico and the School of Irish Studies in Dublin. Her honors also included the Washington Governor’s Arts Award, 1988 (Governor’s recognition for significance in her field).

Dr. Pauline E. Thompson graduated in 1926 in the first class at Cheney State Normal School to receive three-year diplomas. Dr. Thompson then completed a stenographic course at Northwestern Business College in Spokane before returning for her final semester to ESC, where she received her BA in Education in June 1927. She then taught English at Pullman High School for two years while completing her thesis at the State College of Washington (WSC) and received her MA in English in 1930. Her doctoral thesis is based upon her teaching experience in the school district in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, which was singled out by President Kennedy as being the most needful district in the nation. The experience in diversity offered by the Boys’ High School in that area was the major setting for her life attitude of regard for all people.

Dr. Thompson spent her life in a variety of professions. Her earliest employment—at the age of 12—was as Spokane’s first girl page. She was a secretary; a teacher (preschool through grade 13, including Special Education of the blind, handicapped, and gifted); a nurse in the Army Nurse Corps during World War II, mainly in France; a psychologist and member of the American Psychological Association; and a political activist (arrested for political disobedience six times). To continue her legacy of education for all, she has established the Pauline E. Thompson Endowment in the Department of English to further the study, research and/or teachings of Carl Gustav Jung, which could include projects that advance human diversity, feminism, or the development of a civil society.

Sarah Weems

Sarah Weems always considered the liberal arts, notably writing and music, to be the epitome of human accomplishment. After graduation from the Neodesha, Kansas high school in 1962 at age 17, Sarah received a BA in English from Carlton College. Enthralled by a year in Greece under Carlton’s junior-year-abroad program, Sarah continued her classical studies, receiving a BA and MA in Greek from the University of Missouri, capped by a one-year Fulbright scholarship to do archeology in Greece. She then completed coursework for a PhD in Classical Greek and Latin and Classical Archeology. After several years applying her expert editing skills at the Masters and Johnston Institute, where she coedited the book, “Ethical Issues in Sex Therapy and Research,” Sarah completed her PhD thesis “Greek Papyri: The School Texts” while living on the remote coast of British Columbia, Canada. She subsequently served as a technical editor for the American Journals of Roentgenology and Neuroradiology at the University of Washington in Seattle, followed by teaching Latin, Greek and Latin in English Translation in Seattle until her retirement in year 2000. For Sarah, retirement meant only a change in venue, taking up her love of music and becoming an adept practitioner of baroque and medieval music, mastering a half-dozen recorders ranging from soparetto to bass while performing with several groups in both Western and Eastern Washington. Sarah also found time to do outreach and news-letter editing for The Nature Conservancy, as well as training and performing music for the ill and dying at nursing homes in Sedro-Woolley and Colfax, Washington. Her love of music performance terminated by the onset of aggressive and fatal Glioblastoma Multiforme cancer, beginning in 2006, Sarah would have been most pleased with the WSU Nonfiction Creative Writing Scholarship established in her memory, as well as with a similar music scholarship for dedicated Colfax high-school students.