Category Archives: In Memory

John Pratt came to the CSU English Department from the Air Force Academy in 1975, and served as the department head until 1980. He was the college’s first Fulbright professor, having spent a year in Portugal in 1974. During his time as chair, he displayed a deep integrity, a great commitment to education, and an ongoing focus on advancing the cause of women within the Department and the university as a whole.

He had a great love of teaching and found time to teach classes even as he fulfilled his duties as department chair, regarding that as his true calling. John Pratt wrote, published, or edited more than eighteen books, and numerous scholarly articles, poems, and book reviews. After stepping down as department chair in 1980 and another Fulbright fellowship to the (then) University of Leningrad, USSR, he returned to teach as a professor at CSU until his retirement in 2002. (Read his obituary for more about his life.)

If you haven’t already, you should read this recent interview with him. Communications Coordinator Jill Salahub also collected the following memories from various students and faculty who’d worked with John over the years.

John Pratt (source: Ken Babbs)

John Pratt (source: Ken Babbs)

“John strongly believed that administrators should also teach in order to stay close to the needs and interests of students. He enjoyed telling the story of how he once interviewed for a deanship at a west coast university. When told that deans and associate deans at that institution did not typically teach, John said he responded immediately: ‘this dean would teach!'” ~Bruce Ronda, Associate Dean for Faculty and Graduate Studies

“I will remember John Clark Pratt as a proud man. From my first serious encounter with him, when he wrote a peer observation of my graduate class, Theories of Teaching Literature, to the last, when he spoke at a reception for Yusef Komunyakaa in April of 2016, I could tell that he cared deeply about the quality of the department and our alumni. In the intervening 20-plus years, three images stand out. Annually, on Veteran’s Day, John would wear his military uniform. It always fit and he wore it proudly. His bearing and his leadership revealed his military background. The second image is of his coming to my office soon after I became chair and giving me advice: ‘I learned in the Air Force that the leader should be preparing his successor from the first day. That’s what I did and that’s what I advise you to do.’ The third is when he brought me a set of autographed books written by department faculty. Although he was not in good health, he refused my help and carted them to ‘Revitalized Eddy.’ They are now in our display case, a reminder of his service and influence on the history of the Department of English.” ~Louann Reid, English Department Professor and Chair

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“Dr. Pratt was chairman of the department when I was a graduate student and I had him for a class as an undergraduate.  We stayed in distant contact over the years;  he always took an interest in what I was doing.  In fact, only a few years ago, I had a poem on display in the Loveland Museum and Gallery;  he saw it and called to say he thought that I was doing important work.  He was just like that.  I would often see him at gallery openings;  he was very interested in the visual arts as well as literature.

I have not forgotten that when we read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s nest in his class that he included a question on the exam that would expose whether we had actually read the book or substituted watching the movie.  Tricky guy!

Finally, I admit to being a little clueless about such things, but I was surprised to learn (at his service) how long he had been with cancer.  He never let on, just dealt with it.  That is not the only way to cope, I think, but it was his way.  I agree with the minister at the service that John did, after Dylan Thomas, ‘not go gentle into that good night,’ but rather lived every day he had.  I think he would have agreed with Annie Dillard, that you might as well spend your afternoon because you can’t take it with you.

Having been to SE Asia last year, I have been longing for a definitive book about the Vietnam War.  It was right under my nose all along, and I have checked it out from the library:  Pratt’s Vietnam Voices.  I am looking forward to keeping this good man in my life a little longer.” ~Beth Lechleitner, English Department Senior Teaching Faculty

Mary Crow and John Pratt at SueEllen Campbell and John Calderazzo's retirement celebration

Mary Crow and John Pratt catch up at SueEllen Campbell and John Calderazzo’s retirement celebration

“Thanks to John’s invitation to advise Honors English majors, I enjoyed many happy years advising some amazing students, and being involved in the Honors Program.  He was very active with it.” ~Barb Sebek, English Department Professor

“As an undergraduate English major and honors student at CSU, I was assigned Dr. John Clark Pratt as my academic advisor.  I think we both admired one another from the start, a feeling that only continued and deepened over the years as our relationship evolved into a very sweet friendship. I have such fond memories of many meetings in his office in Eddy Hall, discussing Hemingway and also my plans at CSU and beyond. My fondest memories of John, though, are from the years after I graduated from CSU, when he became ‘John’ to me, rather than ‘Dr. Pratt.’ We often met for lunch at the Bluebird, and he always ordered the same meal – mandaberry waffles – and enjoyed it thoroughly each time. We would talk of his time in Portugal, his visits to Alaska to spend time with family, his cabin in Fairplay, his adventures in trying to find a publisher for American Affairs, and also of my work, my family, and all the various ins and outs of life. John’s gentle presence and love of life kept me grounded and always reminded me to stay focused on what matters – family, friends, and a delight in living. He was such a treasure, and I am honored to have known him as a mentor and a friend. I miss him very much.” ~Beth Hasbrouck, Academic English Program Coordinator, INTO Colorado State University

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In Spring 2016, English major Alexander (Alec) Pearson did an internship where he researched department history. He graduated at the end of that same semester, earning his Bachelor of Arts in English with a writing concentration. Alec collected and wrote a lot of material that semester. One thing he did was interview some of our previous department chairs. One of his interviews just so happened to be with John Pratt. At the time, we imagined this biography and interview would be part of a larger series, simply one of a set. We had no idea we’d be using it to honor his memory instead, and yet we are so glad we have it for that very reason.

 


~from Alexander Pearson

John Pratt (source: Ken Babbs)

John Pratt (source: Ken Babbs)

 

John Pratt came to the CSU English Department from the Air Force Academy in 1975, and served as the department head until 1980. He was the college’s first Fulbright professor, having spent a year in Portugal in 1974. During his time as chair, he displayed a deep integrity, a great commitment to education, and an ongoing focus on advancing the cause of women within the Department and the university as a whole.

He had a great love of teaching and found time to teach classes even as he fulfilled his duties as department chair, regarding that as his true calling. John Pratt wrote, published, or edited more than eighteen books, and numerous scholarly articles, poems, and book reviews. After stepping down as department chair in 1980 and another Fulbright fellowship to the (then) University of Leningrad, USSR, he returned to teach as a professor at CSU until his retirement in 2002. (Read his obituary for more about his life.)

Interview with John Pratt by Alexander Pearson, Spring 2016

Alec: Would you mind telling me about how you came to join the English Department?

John: All right, I had been serving the Air Force for twenty years, most of which had been with the Air Force Academy in the English department.

Alec: The Air Force Academy has its own English department?

John: Oh yes, it’s a full university. I had been a pilot but they were taking all of us old farts off flying status because, bottom line, they were running out of money and the only assignment I could have gotten was to the Pentagon. And I didn’t want to do that. I found out that CSU was looking for an English Department chair, from outside, so I signed up for it, I went through the selection process and I got the job in 1974. At the same time, I got a Fulbright fellowship to Portugal and I worked out a deal with the department where I could take the Fulbright and then come up as chair. They had never had a Fulbright professor before, so they said fine, so I came up in 75 as chair of the department.

After about six months here, I had formed some friendships. I had been visiting all of the department members in class, so I could find out who they were and what they did, because I didn’t know anybody. And one of my colleagues took me aside and said “John, there’s something I need to tell you. You know that our department is pretty well divided up.” And I said, “I know. There are a lot of differences.” “Well, because of your military background, half of the English department thinks that you’re no good, and the other half wants you to shoot the first half.” And that was one of my introductions to the department.

Alec: You said you had a Fulbright professorship in Portugal. Could you elaborate on that, I hadn’t heard of that before.

John: The Fulbright fellowship is a national fellowship, any teacher, any professor can apply for it, and they have Fulbrights in many, many countries, and it’s a year-long fellowship. You may know about the former student, Yusef Komunyakaa, who is going to be reading, and I had a lot to do with getting him accepted here, he was the first black student to be in the Creative Writing program. And he has gotten a Fulbright since, and many other remarkable awards.

John Pratt (on the left) at a reception for Yusef Komunyakaa

John Pratt (on the left) at the recent reception for Yusef Komunyakaa

Another thing, when I was in the military, one of the things you’re supposed to do when you take over a command is start training a successor. I told the department that I’d stay five years as chair, but I didn’t tell them that I’d stay longer. I looked around at that point and found that the only woman who was head of a department was head of Home Economics. All of us were men. In part because I had four daughters, whom I had been training to be as good as men, I looked around and found a member of the department whose classes I’d been to were doing very well, I was very impressed with her, her name was Rosemary Whitaker. So I appointed her as graduate chair, as undergraduate chair, all these various positions, so when I decided to step down after five years, she was a shoo-in. She became the first woman head of a major department, her successor was a woman, the current department head is a woman, and I feel very pleased about that.

Alec: What would you count as your achievements while you were chair of the department?

John: I was just lucky in many cases, I hired some very good professors. There wasn’t a great deal more that was really important. My primary interest had always been teaching, and so I think probably the most important thing was I hired women, I appointed women, and I gave them a much better opportunity.

Alec: Do you have any sort of other amusing anecdotes, or non-amusing anecdotes, about your time as chair?

John: Well, I’d been chair about three years and I received a phone call and a follow-up letter from the UCSB for the job of dean of the faculty there. And I really wasn’t very interested in it, and I’d never been approached in that way before, so I thought I’d head down and see what was going on. So I went out for an interview,  and there was a whole group, maybe about ten people, and a woman was head of it. And she introduced me, and she said, John, we think you should know this, this is not an interview. We have looked at your record, we’ve looked at your publications, we want you to come out here as dean of the faculty. That’s definite. And she asked, John, do you have any questions. And I said, there’s the English department and the American Studies department, both of which I would be the dean of — which one would you prefer I taught a course in? And she looked at me with a strange look on her face, and she said, John, I’m sorry, our deans don’t teach. They just administer. And I said, I’m sorry, this dean would teach. And administer at the same time. And she turned around and looked at the people there, then she turned back to me and said, John, I’m afraid we don’t have anything more to say. Have a good trip. They turned me down because I would take one class as a dean, and they said our deans are too busy to teach. And after that I didn’t look into or get asked for anything else. I held a few positions within the department but I just thoroughly enjoyed teaching.

Alec: So what was your specialization as professor and teacher?

John: Well, I started out in American Literature, then I published a couple of novels and quite a few articles.

vietnamvoiceslaotianfragments

Alec: Which novels would these be?

John: Two on Vietnam. I started in Vietnam 1969-1970. In the Air Force Academy I called that my ‘Vietnam Sabbatical.’ I served for an outfit called Project CHECO, Contemporary Historical Evaluation of Combat Operations. And we wrote top-secret papers on what the air force was doing in Vietnam and so on. So when I retired I did a novel on the air war in Laos, called The Laotian Fragments. And I did another one, not really a novel, really a collage, called Vietnam Voices. Actual writings from all aspects of the war.

Alec: I’m pretty sure I’ve seen that in the library.

John: Yeah, the library had a major collection. I gave my last collection of books to the department just recently. And these are all books written by English Department people and they’re in the department library now, along with all the other books that I’ve written.

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The service for John Clark Pratt will be held on January 30, 2017 at the Spirit of Joy Lutheran Church, 4501 S. Lemay at 1:00pm.

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Bev

Senior Teaching Faculty Bev McQuinn

We’d hoped this fall that she’d be back with us, in a classroom doing what she loved so much. We are so sad to be saying goodbye instead. “Beverly Jane McQuinn, 66, of Ft. Collins, died after a brave battle with cancer, surrounded by family, on Sun., Aug. 28, 2016.” A well attended memorial service was held on Friday, September 9th.

“Bev was born July 16, 1950, in Chicago; grew up in Wheeling, IL, graduated from Wheeling High in 1968, and moved to Ft. Collins in 1974. She earned her B.A. and M.A. at CSU, where she taught English since 1983. Her greatest joys were gardening, reading, Rockies baseball, teaching, music and spending time with her family and many neighbors and friends,” (from Source).

The last update to Bev’s faculty page on the department website (which Bev wrote) said, “Ms. McQuinn has been teaching at CSU for 30 years. Her courses have included lower-division literature classes (E 140, E160, 232, 237, 245, 270, 240, 242), and lower- & upper-division composition classes (CO 130, 150, 300, 301A, & 301C). She has taught an Honors class and has graded Placement and Challenge exams, serving several years as a Table Leader. She was a Lecturer for three years, teaching composition and supervising GTAs, and has served on Undergraduate, Evaluation, and Executive Committees. She was advisor to the Science Fiction Club, and has mentored new Special Instructors. From 2009-2012, she was an Upper-Division Composition Admin/Instructor. She holds a Senior Instructorship. She was born & spent her youth in Chicago, Illinois, and moved to Ft. Collins in 1975. She enjoys organic gardening, music, cooking, movies, history, and spending time with her family. And reading, of course!”

Putting this post together, collecting memories has been tough. Each day, a few more trickle in. Each email reminds me that it’s really true, she really is gone, and I just can’t get my head around that — certainly not my heart. Bev was one of the most optimistic, determined humans I’ve ever known. We had many long conversations in which I helped her through various technology issues and she always promised, “this time I’ve got it!” only to come back some time later with a crooked grin and a giggle, confessing she needed help “again.” Her willingness to be completely honest about her foibles was endearing and I never minded spending the time with her. She was so eager to learn, never stopped trying and never lost her sense of humor. Even though she’d already been here for 30 years, some delusional part of me thought she would always be here.

Bev teaching one of her Composition classes, Fall 2012

Bev teaching one of her Composition classes, Fall 2012

From Department Chair Louann Reid: “Bev was such an important part of the department for more than 30 years. She was one of the first people I met when I began my career at CSU, and I always appreciated her generosity in sharing teaching materials that first year. She set an example with her optimism and determination, even through difficult times, including this final battle with cancer.  I will miss her very much.”

From Assistant Professor Todd Mitchell: “Although I often encountered Bev around the halls of Eddy, and she often had a kind greeting and words of solidarity to share with me, it wasn’t until a completely unexpected encounter with Bev, on a plane fight back to Denver, that part of her essential character came into focus for me. The plane had been delayed, and my two daughters (then around two and five years old) were starting to lose it. Passengers around my wife and me began to look at us with dread as my girls fidgeted and whined with increasing fervor. And then Bev appeared over the back of one of the seats. She recognized me right away, and her greeting was full of a sort of genuine warmth that I hadn’t experienced all day, dealing with delayed travelers and frazzled airline folk. What was even more remarkable, though, was how she started to talk and play with my girls, as if she was a favorite aunt who just happened to be in the neighborhood. She engaged both of them with such interest and easy familiarity that my girls immediately calmed down. My wife and I experienced the first break we’d had in many hours then, which gave us a chance to center ourselves as well, so that when the plane finally took off, travel seemed a series of wondrous adventures again, rather than a series of inconveniences and disappointments.

After that encounter, when I saw Bev in the halls of Eddy, I thought of her as a colleague and a tremendous teacher (as I’m sure many others did). But secretly, I also thought of her as a very different sort of teacher—one who helps others not just with what she does in the classroom, but with the way she goes through life. A sort of guardian angel who swoops in right when you need help the most, and you don’t even realize it. She will be well missed.”

Retired Instructor Anne Reid shared a few pictures, “Thinking of Bev’s courage and optimism, I remembered some photos of our fun-loving colleague’s 50th birthday party a ‘couple’ of years ago (July 2000).”

Bev's 50th Birthday Celebration

Bev’s 50th Birthday Celebration

Bev's celebrating her 50th birthday, along with Doug and Marcia Aune

Bev’s celebrating her 50th birthday, along with Doug and Marcia Aune

From Senior Teaching Faculty Debra Walker: “I remember, after having my first child, Simon, Bev found out that Simon’s birth date and year and her grandson Jesse’s were the same. She was so tickled by that, and we spent the next 17 years comparing notes on these two boys, as they grew from chubby babies to young men. Sometimes we were proud of their accomplishments, and other times we were rueful of their antics, but we always loved those boys of ours. Bev lived at the nexus of her family, her friends, and her scholarship, and she loved all three so much. I learned so much from her (she was my CO250 teacher when I was an undergraduate at CSU), both as a teacher and mentor, and as a dear friend.”

From Associate Professor Sue Doe: “When my husband took a job in 2005 at Western Illinois University and we were looking for houses there, Bev chimed in that she had gone to college for a time at Western and could make some recommendations. We then shared a number of stories about hot, humid Illinois summers and how much we sometimes missed them because I, too, was from Illinois. Bev’s fond recollections of central Illinois were a source of encouragement to me and reminded me of how much I missed and valued the place that I am from. I was also struck during Bev’s memorial service that so many of us made the trek from Illinois to Colorado, becoming committed transplants but never abandoning our central Illinois roots embracing the value of hard work and the pleasure found in simple things.

In Bev’s and my day, we mostly came to Colorado for the 3.2 beer, but something got hold of us and we stayed. Bev, I will think of you every time I return to the place we are from as I often head back to your hometown of Chicago–the best city on the face of the earth–or what Sandburg described as that ‘Stormy, husky, brawling/City of the Big Shoulders.'”

From Marnie Leonard: “Bev McQuinn brought joy and positive energy to her students and our department, and she will always be in our hearts.”

Sue Russell, Sheila Dargon, and Bev McQuinn at John Calderazzo and SueEllen Campbell's retirement celebration

Sue Russell, Sheila Dargon, and Bev McQuinn at John Calderazzo and SueEllen Campbell’s retirement celebration

From Sue Russell: “I’ve known Bev for the 21 years I’ve worked in the English Department – she was one of our core group of Composition Placement Exam graders. I know that in the summers, when Steve was unable to be present for a grading session, he would often ask Bev to be table leader. I really miss the old days when all the graders gathered in the summers to grade the hundreds of placement essays – that’s when we were still able to provide food for our sessions. I know that sometimes Bev would bring beautiful bouquets of flowers from her garden. I’m sad to say that I only got to see her garden this past year, since her diagnosis with colon cancer – but, what a lovely garden she had. Bev really loved teaching and her students and was very sad when she had to make the decision not to teach this Fall 2016 semester. Bev will be missed, but I’m so very glad that she didn’t have to be in pain for too long. I also want everyone to know that Bev really found comfort and love in the signature quilt that Terrie made. Bev said that when she couldn’t fall asleep at night, she would pull that quilt around her and read all the words of love from her friends here in the English Department! Bev knew that she was loved and that we all really cared about her!”

From Upper Division Composition Instructor James Roller: “Bev was a dear, kind soul who was fun to be around and who could lift you up and give you hope in the bleakness of winter finals and evaluations. To those who may be new here, or who didn’t get the chance to know her, I want you to know that to me Bev was a true heart of the department. She taught me to trust my fellow teachers and she showed me that we all share in a fragility that is inherent in the position we occupy. In an environment that so strongly favors the intellectual, we intelligent people can sometimes forget the human part of the humanities. This was never a problem for Bev. She was unafraid to express her frustrations with the things that confront us, and she gave me a chance to be of real help to a dear coworker now and then. She taught me how to endure in our environment by teaching me how to ask for help, and showing me that I had help to give back. I will miss Bev dearly for all of the wonderful, amazing things she was.

When I visited Bev during her cancer, I got an opportunity to learn much more about her. I learned that this wasn’t the first time she faced life-threatening disease. I learned more about what a fighter she was. Though she was physically small, she had tremendous power. If it was not apparent, it was because she didn’t need to present herself so. She worked with us for thirty years, summers too, and she did the things we all do to get the job done like losing too much sleep, drinking too much coffee, and missing out on times with friends and family. She was at the doorstep of retirement and a well-deserved rest, and even when sick, she tried to come back to teach some more. Bev was a tough woman, but she touched the lives of so many in such a caring and compassionate way that those who may not have known her well might have overlooked that toughness.

Her life was dedicated to empowering and educating others. She was loved by her students, and she will be dearly missed by her coworkers. I was lucky enough to get to know her better as she left us. She leaves me wondering why we don’t look in on each other more often in health as well.

What more is there to say? Anything good, and especially to each other. Let us not forget that we are all here to do the same good in this world with our lives, and let us regard each other in this way. We share in the work she did, and we should strive to fill the void of kindness and compassion that Bev’s passing leaves behind.”

Bev McQuinn and Christina Sutton

Bev McQuinn and Christina Sutton

From Senior Teaching Faculty Laura Thomas: “Bev and I were the best of work friends. Our friendship thrived in hallways, doorways, around conference tables, huddled around a screen. Yes, we did occasionally socialize off campus, but usually with others from the English department. That we met and nurtured our relationship at work diminishes its value not at all. Instead, because we saw each other regularly in Eddy between classes, at meetings, or grading placement exams, we didn’t have to plan or arrange spending time together. And because we both cared so deeply about being the best teachers we could be, we shared the joys and burdens of a lifelong quest. Bev brought out the best in so many of us. Her enthusiasm for learning propelled her unending love affair with literature and gathered like-minded students and friends to her side. Her unflagging sense of humor made facing even the most frustrating tasks or bureaucratic inanities bearable. Above all, Bev was real and Bev was kind. It is in the most ordinary moments that I miss her. When I stand alone heating my lunch at the microwave next to her office, I know something of what we’ve lost: the possibility of another moment in the hallway, face-to-face with an admired colleague and a dear, dear friend.”

From Instructor Terrie Sandelin: “Oh, Bev. When I started grad school in 1985, Bev was here. I’ve been trying to remember how long we shared an office — sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years? A long time. We were a little of an Odd Couple — my desk was an oasis of neatness while Bev scattered tumbling piles everywhere. If there was any flat surface remaining, she put a plant on it! (They always thrived, too).

Over the years she had EPIC battles with the computer. There was the time I heard her speaking vigorously at the it because she couldn’t find her files. I discovered that for months she had just been hitting Save. She had no concept of file structure. There were documents Everywhere! I sorted them out for her and made a chart — Go here, Don’t go here! I wrote Ctrl-C = Copy, Ctrl-X = Cut, Ctrl-V = Paste on a little scrap of paper. She kept it taped up next to the computer for years. Till the paper yellowed, the edges curled, and the ink faded. Computers and Bev — not so compatible!

But ask her anything about Shakespeare! She was such a dedicated teacher and so present for her students. I’ve heard so many wonderful things from her students over the years. And Bev and I shared so many conversations. We talked books, of course, and family and anything and everything. She was so involved and so engaged. So loving. I’m going to miss her more than I can possibly say.”

Bev checks out the remodeled Eddy Hall during the first employee walkthrough ob the building

Bev checks out the remodeled Eddy Hall during the first employee walkthrough of the building

From Professor Barb Sebek: For most of the time that we knew each other, Bev and I were ‘Eddy hallway friends.’ Her lively ‘Hi, Barb!’ in our shared Chicago accent will always ring happily in my ears. Our last conversation in Eddy Hall was in October 2015, just a day or two before she was going to have surgery, during the fall semester that ended up being her last semester of teaching. At the time, Bev was planning to return to her classes after recovering from the surgery. A student in one of Bev’s courses that fall semester came to my Shakespeare II course in Spring 2016 with particular eagerness and excitement for reading The Tempest, thanks to Bev’s stimulating teaching of the play in her course.

Because Bev and I chatted so long that late afternoon in October, I rode home from Eddy at an unusual time, and was treated to the unexpected sound and sight of hundreds (thousands?) of migrating sandhill cranes in the skies over campus. I stopped my bike to marvel at the sight and sounds and to snap some photos (see below). There is something otherworldly about the distinctive warble of these evolutionarily ancient birds during flight. When I told Bev about the experience and how our conversation led to my witnessing the thrilling spectacle, she said that there was ‘really something mystical’ about this experience that we’d indirectly shared. May all the sandhill cranes of the universe warble to you, Bev. We’ll all miss you so much.”

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes

 

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