“From One Side of the River to the Other”: a Faculty Feature from Pablo Peschiera (’93)

Associate Professor Pablo Peschiera (’93) teaches many different courses, but his heart lies split between two: poetry writing courses and literary translation courses. Pablo writes his own poems in English, and he translates from Spanish to English. His ongoing translation project is on the work of Manuel Ramos Otero (1948 –1990), the Puerto Rican poet, writer, playwright, director, and professor. Otero’s work is passionate and full of experimentation. The below piece—about how Pablo thinks of translation, memory, and language—is the jumping-off point for an upcoming colloquium titled “How I Learned to Trust Myself” at 3:30 pm, January 25th, in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center at Hope College. It is free and open to the public.

From One Side of the River to the Other

Associate Professor Pablo Peschiera (’93)

I write poems in English and translate poems and stories from Spanish to English. When we translate, we try to get something from one language into another language. This is like carrying ideas and images across a bridge, from, in my case, the Spanish side of a river to the English side. The word “translate” comes from the Latin words meaning “across” (trans) and “carry” (latus). The bridge in this metaphor is the translator’s imagination.

I’m going to extend this river and bridge metaphor a bit more, because I find it useful in explaining what a translator does. When I translate, my carrying-across-the-bridge only works one way, from the Spanish side to the English side. It’s like I’m an importer/exporter with a license that only works one way: I can carry across from the Spanish side to the English side, but not in the other direction, from English to Spanish.

I could give it a try, though, carrying a poem or story from English to Spanish, but I know I wouldn’t do a very good job. In Spanish, anything I translate from English just wouldn’t sound right. A native Spanish speaker would get it, but they’d probably laugh at it—and they’d be right to! It would sound silly, often incorrect and off kilter.

I grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan to which we moved from Peru when I was five years old. English is my native language, which means I spoke it with my friends and in school. At home I spoke Spanish, but not with the same intensity and energy I spoke English. English was the cool language. All the music was in English, the TV was in English, my friends and their families all spoke English—everything was in English. None of my teachers spoke Spanish. Even our high school Spanish teacher only spoke English (but she could read and write Spanish very well—go figure). Translators say “translate into the language of your dreams.” For me, that’s usually English.

English is the language I trust. In English, I believe what I say and what I write, and the words come fluidly, like smooth water rippling over stones. When I cross the bridge from the Spanish side of the river to the English side, I need to trust myself. The bridge is dangerous—which means the imagination is dangerous. No steel girders, stone boulders, or even brick or wood in the imagination. Because the imagination is in the human mind, it’s weak and wears out quickly, as if it’s made of rope. And not even the good stuff, like nylon or poly—not even hemp! It’s cotton sisal, or twine. It rots in the sun and weather and comes unraveled. It needs mending every day. So I need to cross the imagination using the language I know best, the language I trust, which is English.

Don’­t get me wrong—I know Spanish well. My accent is usually very good, especially if I’ve been practicing. If I parachuted into a Spanish-speaking country today, I’d have zero problems understanding and making myself understood. If I’m hungry, I say ¿conoces un restaurante bueno por aquí? If I want to buy a lottery ticket, I say ¿dónde puedo comprar un boleto de lotería? I couldn’t argue a case in court, and I couldn’t have a debate about Manichaeism, but most English speakers couldn’t do either in English anyway. So I’d be fine.

What makes me not a native speaker is that I don’t trust Spanish. When I write Spanish the rope bridge feels like it’s unraveling. I might foolishly confuse boda (wedding) for bota (boot), or sagrado (sacred) for sangriente (bloody). Spanish uses gendered articles and nouns: La cancha (the court) is feminine and el maletero (the trunk) is masculine, because words that end in “a” are feminine, and words that end in “o” are masculine. I get those wrong sometimes because there are tons (tons!) of exceptions. When I read Spanish I have no problem with these things—I read fluidly almost as quickly and pleasantly as I do in English.

What it comes down to is art. If I carry a poem across the bridge (a poem is a work of art), I can’t look up words to use while I’m on rope bridge of my Spanish imagination, with its dry rot and frayed knots. I have to concentrate on the destination of the English side. I need to trust the bridge. It’s only made of rope, but at least it’s well mended and strong. It must hold me up. Why? Because the bridge of language hovers over the river, and the river is chaos.


Alumni Feature from Kyle Bernaciak ’16

Officer Kyle Bernaciak, Chicago Police Department 006th District—Gresham

As I walked out of an English course, Irish Literature, in late March of my senior year at Hope, I scrolled through new emails on my phone. My heart nearly stopped on the second-floor landing of Lubbers Hall, as I received the news that I had been accepted into the Chicago Police Academy. I had been ordered to report the Monday following my graduation in May 2016. My relatively simple college student lifestyle was about to change. I was on the threshold of the so-called real world.

Fast forward six months, I’m patrolling a beat on Chicago’s Southside, particularly the Englewood neighborhood. It’s a community that doesn’t resemble me. Residents are almost entirely African-American, they have varied religious beliefs, and most individuals fall below the poverty line. This neighborhood leads the city in violent crimes, shootings, and homicides.

My partner and I just finished completing a police report for a young woman who was robbed at gunpoint while walking home from work. Now, we are maneuvering traffic on Marquette Avenue with our lights oscillating and the sirens blaring.  We’re responding to a call about a person with a gun, and the address of occurrence is within an enhanced violence zone.  It’s my first few weeks on the streets and, as you can imagine, I’ve got a cold sweat, and I can’t predict what is going to happen next. It turns out not to be a bonafide incident. We get back in our squad car, drive away, and get called over the radio to respond to a domestic battery incident a few blocks away. I think to myself how things have changed in only a few short months.

My transition from an English major with the intent to be a high school teacher to a Chicago police officer was a rather peculiar one. My father has been a Chicago firefighter since 1980. I guess you can say civil service is in my blood.  I didn’t want to settle after graduation.  I wanted to do something different. One of my favorite classes at Hope was “Race Matters,” taught by Dr. Stephen Hemenway. Analyzing race, diversity, and ethnicity was fascinating and eye-opening. We always had very valuable classroom discussions. The texts were intriguing.

Looking back, there is valuable advice that I want to pass on to Hope students deciding on their next steps after graduation.  Hope students, like me, need to grasp the valuable academic knowledge in their courses and immerse themselves in new cultures rich with diversity and elements of the unknown. They have to take the risks.  It will pay off.

Now, I’ve been a Chicago police officer for over a year and a half. I work in the Gresham neighborhood, also located on the Southside. I can confidently say that I utilize my Hope College English education multiple times throughout each tour of duty.  In the English Department, students are taught to be genuine communicators. Additionally, they have to analyze texts and present their ideas in a concise, yet persuading manner. On a daily basis, my duties as a police officer are enhanced by my English education background when I:

  • generate Case Incident Reports and Arrest Reports. These legal documents have a narrative component that requires the ability to articulate elements of the crime.  Poignant language and a clear narrative flow are essential to the overall effectiveness of the report.
  • communicate with citizens in various forms, whether in a call of service, a traffic stop, a narcotics investigation, or a community concern. Sometimes, I can be a friendly presence for kids to let them know I’m here to help.


Hope College allows students to individually flourish. They have endless opportunities to express their ideas and beliefs and to take stances on important issues. An English major from Hope will open so many doors of opportunity.  So embrace risks.  Explore various careers.  Make diverse connections.  Never doubt your intellectual ability. You’ve studied under professors like Hemenway, Moreau, Kenagy, Dykstra, Burton, Montaño, and Trembley— they’re the experts. Listen closely to their advice, because I guarantee it will pay off. If you happen to “fall” into a profession, stick to what you know best and rely on the skill set that you’ve perfected at Hope College.

Alumni Feature: Peter Derby, Class of 2005

Dear Reader,

One of my former professors asked me to write to you.  She suggested, in not so many words, you might like to know how having an English major at Hope College can influence your future.  Not knowing you personally, the next best thing I can do is write a letter to “past me”—the me that was once in your shoes, sitting in an English class at Hope wondering about my future.  I want to let my former self know what he’s up to now, 15 years later.

This morning you woke up and hopped on the subway in Brooklyn, NY. (That’s where you live.) You’re practicing a pitch on the train to Manhattan for your meeting at CNN’s New York headquarters with one of their senior producers, the Director of Technology for CNN Digital. You’ve known this producer for a few years, and today is important because you want him to hire you for a project. You’re telling him about a documentary series that follows people who move to destination cities – like New York, Paris, London – without a plan, risking luck and failure. You hope CNN’s digital studio or the NY Times digital studio might be interested in collaborating or buying it. Sounds promising, right?

So how can I prepare you for this morning far off into the future? Well, you certainly had no idea you’d take a career path that led to today. What is relevant for you to know is this:  these pitch meetings will require that you deliver concise thesis statements, and the better you get at writing thesis statements, the better you get at pitching ideas.  A lot of what you do in 2017 relies on what you learned about how to structure your thinking.

There are a lot of things you don’t know and won’t be able to prepare for with your career. Yeah, you’re thinking if I don’t know what I don’t know, what is the point? You don’t know it yet, but understanding the fundamentals of narrative structure and analysis of that structure will become more important as technology transforms how people communicate and make sense of their world.

Here’s another example. Last week you met a client. It was good to see him, but he had bad news. A colleague of his, a mutual acquaintance and a director of content strategy for a well-known startup, had been fired.  When asked why, he shook his head regretfully and said: “he just didn’t know how to structure his thinking and clearly lay out what his team needed to do.”

Back in 2005, it was not useful to try and figure out what your job title would be, especially since your path to this point was by no means linear.  There’s no Senior Vice President of English Thought Process as, say, an engineering major becomes a Senior Engineer.

So here are three useful things you realize about what you learned at Hope as an English major.

  1. It is valuable to learn how to ask questions. How do you arrive at a question and what is the premise? Can you simplify complex problems to essential points? Are you listening (or reading), or are you reacting?
  2. Once you’ve developed a point of view, a thesis (a.k.a. a pitch), do you know the best way to format/structure your point and increase its potential impact? Is there a better or quicker way to do this? In developing your point of view, follow the ideas you’re fascinated in because everything is needed quickly, and professionals know a safe boring story before you even tell it. (Just a heads up.)
  3. Are you open to learning new ways of communicating and developing new perspectives?

These aren’t things you thought about as an undergrad, but after you left, they did stay with you, because you’d been practicing the discipline of structuring your own thoughts and taking them seriously. You didn’t call it this, but that’s what happened. As your advisor once told you as you sat in his office, you should be able to construct a thesis and strong argument about the chair you’re sitting in. If you haven’t yet identified the skills you’re developing and enjoy practicing as an undergrad, I know a few professors who can help you. Somewhere between the skills you learn at school and the skills of your future career, there is an overlap.

After you get off that train in Manhattan, arrive at CNN, and deliver your pitch, your contact there is going to nod and tell you your project is interesting.  He is going to ask you how you feel about learning how to film, capture light, and frame shots. This will be a bit like putting together a puzzle, where you aren’t given all the pieces, but, hey, you’re an English major.  You know what you’re doing.


Alumni Feature: “Reading Against The Grain”

Sally Smits Masten, ’01

What are you doing now?

Currently, I am a Writing Center mentor at Western Governors University, an online nonprofit university that primarily serves adults going back to school for their undergraduate or graduate degrees.  I adore this work.  I feel really lucky to be part of it.  I get to work with dedicated students all over the U.S. who are working so hard to make life better for themselves and their families.  I get to help them gain confidence in their writing, which is just joyful work.  And I get to work with a wonderful bunch of colleagues and at a university that works hard to keep students at the center of all we do.

Second, but not least, I live in North Carolina, near the shore, with my marvelous husband, my ridiculous dog, and my grumpy cat.

How did your Hope English education shape you?

My Hope English education shaped me in every way, really.  My professors were then (and are now) some of the best people I’ve met.  They taught me to pay attention to detail, to think hard and revise my opinion based on a second look, another point of view, someone else’s comments.  They opened my eyes to whole new fields that I otherwise would have avoided (e.g., Milton, Pope!).  They continuously reminded me why I loved words and books and poems; they sustained that enthusiasm.  They taught me how to read against the grain–a skill I use every day.  Simultaneously, they helped me trust my own ideas and voice, which, despite my loudmouthiness now, was not something I was able to do at 18.

Perhaps most importantly, though, they taught me compassion.  They made me want to become a teacher, but beyond that, even now, they make me want to embody exactly the kind of respect, kindness, seriousness, and thoughtfulness with which they taught me.  My gratitude for those relationships is just boundless.

What advice would you give to English majors today?

Don’t listen to all the people who say, “What will you do with an English major?” Or, more sarcastically, “So, you plan to be a barista?”  English majors are valued and valuable for their insights, their ability to communicate those insights, their ability to carefully craft and interpret language.  I have many English major friends, of course, and we’ve ended up in many fields — publishing, business, law, education, healthcare, nonprofit work, etc. The important thing is to pursue what you love and know that there is a place for you and what you love in the world. It may be scary sometimes, but there is a place for you in the world.

If you could teach any English class, what would be the title?

Currently, since I live in North Carolina, since I studied 20th-century southern poetry for my dissertation, and since the debate over Confederate monuments has sprung up again recently, I would like to teach a course titled “Take It Down: Southern Poets Writing against Racism and Sexism.”  I’d have to do more research, but on the syllabus, I’d definitely include Anne Spencer, Jean Toomer, Eleanor Ross Taylor, Robert Penn Warren, and oh, so many more.

Favorite book read recently or in college?

Of all the questions…!  Paradise by Toni Morrison is maybe my all-time favorite novel.  Wilderness of Ladies, a poetry collection by Eleanor Ross Taylor, is a collection that just keeps revealing more brilliance each time I come back to it.  Any and all of Naomi Shihab Nye’s poems. And, for the joy of it, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows that Type, maybe the best (only?) children’s book about unionized cows ever.


EVENT: JRVWS Author, Paisley Rekdal

Paisley Rekdal

The second event of this year’s Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series is almost here! This Thursday, October 19, JRVWS will host multi-genre writer Paisley Rekdal. Rekdal is the author of two books of essays and five books of poetry and has had work featured in a number of noteworthy journals. Rekdal’s visit will include a question and answer session at 3:30pm in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of Martha Miller as well as a reading at 7:00pm in the John and Dede Howard Recital Hall of Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts.

In Paisley Rekdal’s most recent book of poetry, Imaginary Vessels, she explores feminism, violence, identity, and themes of containment, inviting readers to reflect on their own place in the world. When I first read Rekdal’s poetry, I was struck by her images, which are at once vibrant, graceful, and captivating: her “palace animals’ teeth” or the “fine chinks of spine/ unlocking perfectly/ from each other.” Rekdal’s poems range from traditional forms and rhyme schemes, to more genre-defying, narrative pieces. Nevertheless, each poem demonstrates an unmissable and intuitive understanding of shape and craft.

Rekdal’s work in other genres is no less compelling. In her latest non-fiction book, The Broken Country, Rekdal continues to explore violence, but also looks at cultural trauma and the specific experiences of Vietnamese immigrants.  Rekdal’s carefully chosen words were deeply moving and informative to me, though I had little previous exposure to her topics.  She gives a personal and human face to the trauma experienced as a result of war and immigration. Weaving personal reflections with the careful analysis of other stories and events, Rekdal’s prose provides a unique understanding of violence and immigrant identity.

Don’t miss your chance to connect with Rekdal this Thursday and hear her words come alive. In the mean time, you can also get your own copy of her books at the Hope College Bookstore or be thinking of questions to ask her at the Q&A.

This is also a good time to remind the Hope College community and the Holland community at large of the invaluable opportunity offered by JRVWS:  the chance to talk with and hear from publishing writers. Be sure to come out to this event and contact the director of the series, Susanna Childress, for more ways to get involved.

Dr. Susanna Childress enjoying JRVWS.

For more details about the event, check out the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series Website

— Grace Hulderman, JRVWS Student Intern

Alumni Feature: “Do What You Love”

Annette Bourland, Class of 1994

What are you doing now?
I am a Senior Vice President and Group Publisher for Zondervan, which is part of HarperCollins Global Publishing. I oversee the acquisitions, marketing, and publicity for Zondervan and Zonderkidz titles. We publish books, gift books, videos, Bibles, curriculum and digital products including audiobooks, ebooks, digital books, and apps.

How did your Hope English education shape you?
I was set to become a stockbroker or an accountant while pursuing my Business Administration degree. When I became a senior, my advisor informed me that I only needed four more credits to earn an English major, so he helped me locate an internship with a magazine publishing group near Hope’s campus. Through this experience, I realized my business focus along with my love for writing, editing, and being creative could be blended together in the world of publishing. If I had not been guided toward that internship, I may have had a long path of figuring out my career in light of the two loves: managing money and managing the books, actual books—not just accounting books!

What advice would you give to English majors today?
Absolutely do what you love and find ways to express that through your work. I loved books, so as a sophomore and junior, I worked at an ABA independent bookstore in Holland. I loved to write, so as a senior I wrote movie reviews, author bios, and short articles for newspapers and magazines. The internship I held at the magazine group allowed me to try many different areas of publishing (writing, design, finance, author relations, marketing, publicity, project management, etc.) and this allowed me to identify what tasks and responsibilities generated energy within me rather than zapping my energy and leaving me depleted.

Just a few weeks after I graduated from Hope, I asked the Career Placement office if I could hold informational interviews with Hope alums who had “edit” or “publish” in their titles. I landed fourteen phone interviews and from those calls, and I was able to schedule five entry-level job interviews in New York City. One alum who worked at Reader’s Digest recommended me for a job. I interviewed, I got my first job after college, and to this day I’ve never even met her in person. There are many Hope alums around the world who have a strong interest in helping others in any vocation. Be sure to tap into that network, even if it’s just to ask a few questions…including: “do you know of any entry-level job openings at your current employer?”

If you could teach any English class, what would be the title?
How to Have Fun Every Day at Work – OR – Just Because You Are an English Major Doesn’t Mean You Have to Be a Teacher—OR—English Majors Can Do Anything

Can you share a favorite book read recently or in college?
In college: Personal History by Katherine Graham – really well written and inspiring for women who want to change the world.

Recently: Solo by Kwame Alexander because I published it, and I want everyone to read it even if it is YA fiction.

Faculty Feature: Welcome to Dr. Christiana Salah, Assistant Professor of English

Victorian Steam Train, Strasburg Rail Road, Pennsylvania. Photo Credit: Christiana Salah

What do you enjoy most about teaching?

The number one thing?  Conversation. To me, there are few things in life more fun than discussing a good story. Maybe that’s because I grew up in a family of very, very talkative bookworms! I still talk to my sister and brother about books all the time, and—like a lot of people who teach—both of my parents worked in education. But when it comes to teaching at the college level, what’s most exciting to me is that students have incredible ideas of their own to shar—my duty as a teacher isn’t just to hand out knowledge, but to do my best to foster deep, interesting, enjoyable discussions.

What excites you about your scholarship?

Well, like I said, growing up I was always the kid with her nose in a book. At some point along the way I started reading classics, and I fell in love with the 19th century—Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, etc. In my scholarship, I’m motivated to understand what values, conventions, and shared experiences formed the perspective of writers like these. Different as their world was, so much of what they were dealing with applies to our own time. Reformers faced many of the same concerns—overcoming obstacles for women, bridging economic gaps, promoting social progress without losing a sense of shared identity—yet we rarely look back to this period for inspiration, or pitfalls to avoid. Instead we often see it as a simpler time, a time of black-and-white morality, which just isn’t correct. So my scholarship is mostly about making those connections and complexities visible.

Where are your favorite places to travel? Why?

I’ve spent time in England and Ireland, which was wonderful—getting to see the locations of some of my favorite books, soaking in gorgeous landscapes, and drinking as much tea as possible! But probably the most incredible trip I’ve taken was to New Zealand. A good friend lives there, so I was able to spend several weeks and tour both the North and South Islands. It’s a breathtaking place. Driving around you might find yourself among green sheep pastures that look like County Kerry, and an hour later be in a desert with snow-capped mountains. And of course, they have Hobbit holes there…

“Pancake Rocks” at Punakaiki, South Island, New Zealand. Photo Credit: Christiana Salah

As for my next trip—nothing planned, but I’d love the chance to see where my ancestors come from in Lebanon someday. That said, I grew up on the Massachusetts coast and my family is still there, so for the immediate future I’ll probably be traveling most to that area.

Do you have a favorite book or author?

Is that really a fair question to ask a literature professor? I couldn’t possibly pick one. I’ve mentioned some favorite Victorian writers already. I love Jane Eyre, I love David Copperfield. I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. Modern fiction rarely has the same magic for me, with a few exceptions, like A.S. Byatt’s incredible novel Possession. But when it comes to the 20th and 21st centuries, what I read most is children’s literature! If you stop by my office, it will quickly become evident that I love Rowling, Lewis, and Tolkien. I do scholarship on children’s fiction alongside my other research, because I’m in love with how vivid and fresh the field is. The people who write and study children’s literature have so much forward momentum—their passion for justice and improving the world constantly encourages me.

What appealed to you about Hope when you first considered working here?

A lot of things, but what comes to mind first is the value Hope places on uniting faith and intellectualism. As a life-long practicing Catholic, I love the idea of bringing the pursuit of spiritual truths together with rigorous critical thought to serve the goal of creating a more just and compassionate world. Teaching in an environment like this opens up cool possibilities…. For instance, my classes can dig deep into the motivations of Victorian writers whose social messages were profoundly informed by Christianity. And since Hope values understanding between diverse faith traditions, I’m excited about the wide variety of perspectives my students will bring to these conversations.

Student Feature: Shanley Smith

Photo Credit: Shanley Smith

This summer I had the opportunity to attend Chris Dombrowski’s Bear Grass Writing Retreat at a dude ranch in Montana, where I was able to meet and talk with a number of authors, agents, and publishers.  My time there reminded me of the necessity of connecting writers together for both artistic and emotional encouragement. Within four days, I was engaged with a community of like-minded artists, a group of people I dreaded leaving.

Dombrowski and his good friend and fellow writer, Shann Ray, will be coming to campus on Tuesday, September 19 to give the Tom Andrews Memorial Reading for this year’s first event in the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. Both write across genres of prose and poetry, while sustaining a liberal arts mentality, a perspective informed by many academic disciplines that deeply influence their work.  Ray, who holds a PhD in psychology, writes with a poetic rawness about race, gender, and familial ties in books such as American Masculine: Stories and American Copper:  A Novel.  Dombrowski captures the spirit of the terrain from Montana to the Bahamas with his poetry collections By Cold Water and Earth Again and his recent, ravishing non-fiction book, Body of Water:  A Sage, a Seeker, and the World’s Most Elusive Fish.

Dombrowski’s vision to create a retreat where authors and aspiring writers can connect and inspire one another coincides perfectly with the vision of the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. The series prides itself on connecting students to accomplished writers, allowing for a deep dive into stories and poems while providing a chance for one-to-one conversations in classrooms, lunches and dinners, and at Q & A sessions and talkbacks.  After spending time with him in Montana, I can assure you that Chris, a Hope alumnus, is a writer not only of great craftsmanship but one who cares about and nurtures this vital connection between writers.

I encourage you all to attend both the reading and Q & A, where you’ll be able to meet both Dombrowski and Ray. I hope to see you all there!

For more information on these events, please visit the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series website.

~ A note from Susanna Childress, director of JRVWS:

It’s that time again! Yes, the start of another academic school year also means the start of another great season for the Jack Ridl Visiting Writers Series. On September 19, we’ll welcome Chris Dombrowski (’98) and Shann Ray for the Tom Andrews Memorial Reading.  Between the two of them, they’ve written more than half a dozen award-winning and best-selling books.

And the fun continues throughout the semester!

Next month, October 19, another multi-genre writer, Paisley Rekdal, will spend three days on campus visiting classes, giving students feedback, and doing a Q&A and a reading; Rekdal has both a nonfiction book and a volume of poetry coming out this year. In November, JRVWS joins forces with The Big Read to welcome Julie Otsuka, whose award-winning books are being read throughout the community—from high school and college classrooms to senior book clubs.

And the spring semester is packed with multi-genre and award-winning writers as well! We’ve got a digital storyteller and an ex-con poet-memoirist, a spoken word champion and a Pulitzer Prize finalist.

You won’t want to miss these readings, but with JRVWS, you can do one better than that: you get the chance to ask the writers questions or receive feedback on your own work, have them visit your classes or sit across from you at a table for lunch or dinner—invaluable experiences and exposure to living writers. All for free!

Please do join us for a wonderful season of great writers, great books, and great community. See you next week!

DuMez Investiture Speech

At the Spring 2015 Board of Trustees meeting, the board awarded the DuMez Endowed Professorship to English faculty William Pannapacker. The post was previously held by Dr. John Cox, now professor emeritus of the English department. Dr. Pannapacker will hold this endowed professorship for ten years. After an entertaining and heartfelt introduction from Dr. Kathleen Verduin at the investiture dinner, Dr. Pannapacker shared these words:

By William Pannapacker

Thank you, Kathleen. Along with many of those here tonight, you have been a mentor, colleague, and friend since I first arrived at Hope College.

I also want to note the honor of being able to succeed John Cox, a great scholar, teacher, and servant-leader.

And I want, most of all, to acknowledge the love and support of my spouse, Teresa Jenkins Pannapacker who has made countless sacrifices to enable us, together with our three daughters, to follow this path through several places far from our original home, friends, family, and church.

I was asked to address what I am “passionate” about as a faculty member at Hope College. If I interpret that word within my own faith tradition, then perhaps it means those things for which I believe I am willing to make sacrifices.

Certainly, I aspire to be passionate about literature: its commitment to preserving the best that has been thought and said, and to expanding the boundaries of what can be thought and said, and by whom.

I aspire to be passionate, likewise, about scholarship: its commitment to recognizing our debts to the insights of others, and to asking new questions, devising new methods, and seeking answers that are always already provisional, always pursuing reform.

I aspire to be passionate about service: its commitment to preserving an institution in turbulent times, securing new resources, and exploring new opportunities that allow it to move forward with vitality and hope in a global context.

I aspire, most of all, to be a passionate teacher: to provide a context for students as whole persons: their character, intellect, social engagement, and spiritual development; to encourage them to seek knowledge for its own sake while enabling them to apply their gifts to the world’s needs.

The preparation of students depends on many forms of trust, extending beyond the classroom to the entire institution. The free and authentic exchange of ideas, the bedrock of liberal arts education, depends on reducing, if only for a brief moment in the lives of our students, the “reality distortion fields” of ideology, insularity, privilege, and power.

As John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote in The Apologia Pro Vita Sua, “Many a man has ideas, which he hopes are true, and useful for his day, but he is not confident about them, and wishes to have them discussed.  He is willing, or rather would be thankful, to give them up, if they can be proved to be erroneous or dangerous, and by means of controversy he obtains his end.  He is answered, and he yields; or on the contrary he finds that he is considered safe.  He would not dare do this, if he knew an authority, which was supreme and final, was watching every word he said, and made signs of assent or dissent to each sentence, as he uttered it.”

I want to believe, passionately, that the liberal arts can cultivate the conviction—and the reflexive humility—to consider that any person with whom one disagrees is no less honorable, and could be right.

Finally, I am grateful for the added support and standing provided by this professorship, to pursue those passions. I am grateful for the trust it signifies on the part of the Board of Trustees and our President. And I am pleased to have this moment to recognize the generosity of the DuMez family.

Thank you.


Welcome to the Hope College English Department’s inaugural blog post.

We’re excited to share stories from our faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends! Our guest next week will be Dr. Ernest Cole, English faculty member and chair of the department.

Meet Dr. Cole, and come back next week to learn more!