English Matters. College of Arts and Sciences, Washington State University.

Alumni Spotlight

Couple doubles scholarship award in beloved English professor’s name

Bob Johnson and Susan Pickett.
WSU alumnus Bob Johnson (right) and Susan Pickett doubled their scholarship gift in the name of his beloved English professor Ruth Slonim.

Two years after establishing the Ruth Slonim Endowed Scholarship in English, Dr. Robert Arnold Johnson (BS, Zoology, 1964) and Susan Eileen Pickett, professor emerita of music at Whitman College, recently took the generous step of doubling the endowment, which doubled the student scholarship award as well.

Dr. Johnson shared this remembrance: “I met Ruth Slonim first in the autumn of 1960. I was a freshman, attending an evening talk she gave on the role of poetry in a mind and in a society. Our discussion in the question period that followed that talk was to be perhaps the most important single discussion of my lifetime. She took an interest in me. And through her suggestions about my undergraduate career thereafter—and sometimes her direct intervention in it—the placement of critical thinking and frank curiosity—the two together within the liberal arts, the sciences, and a life—was clarified for me with a force I cannot imagine could have taken hold otherwise.”

Ruth Slonim in a vintage photograph.
Ruth Slonim

Slonim was a widely loved professor and a published poet, who joined the WSU faculty in 1947. She taught poetry and literature and brought to WSU several major poets, including Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Hugo, W.H. Auden, and Galway Kinnell.

Our department commemorates Professor Slonim’s achievements here by providing a scholarship in her name to deserving students. To be eligible, Slonim scholars should intend to major or minor in English; preferably should be incoming freshmen; and should demonstrate exceptional literary aptitude (by submitting either a selection of poetry, fiction, or literary analysis). In turn, we offer scholarship recipients opportunities  similar to those Professor Slonim provided her students: a stimulating Visiting Writer Series, opportunities to present and discuss their work, and a committed Creative Writing faculty invested in their students.

Nationally renowned writer, editor lends insights to Creative Writing students

Annette Benedetti.
Annette Benedetti

Portland, Oregon-based writer and editor Annette Benedetti (BA, English, 2002) spoke this spring with students in Peter Chilson’s Creative Writing Form and Theory class about how to survive as a freelance writer and editor, especially in the digital publishing world. While at WSU Pullman, she delivered a public presentation in the Bundy Reading Room followed by a question-and-answer session and reception.

During her visit, Benedetti talked with students and the WSU community about her experience of launching a digital magazine and her ambition to edit a magazine that amplifies the authentic voices of women writers. She is among the earliest graduates of the English department’s Creative Writing option.

Benedetti is founder and editor of She Explores Life, a national women’s travel and exploration journal. She is also Pacific Northwest editor for Red Tricycle, a national magazine focused on parenting and family life. Her writing appears regularly in Bust, Domino, Motherly, Livability, Penny Hoarder, and many other publications.

You can read more about Benedetti at her website, benedetticreative.com.