From the Chair's Desk
It’s my pleasure to welcome everyone back for another academic year. I’d like to extend a special welcome to our new undergraduate majors and to our new graduate students. Our English department prides itself in being collegial and challenging—so get ready to read, think, discuss, be challenged, think and read some more, and write and write and write. All of these things help hone one’s intellect and help develop a person’s sense of what it means to be human, what it means to exist in space and time. Great literature, great art in general, cultivates an aesthetic capacity that allows people to experience themselves in relation to, and perhaps even in full sympathy with, something else. You can be absorbed and merge into a novel, poem, song, or painting—or even into a class discussion about a work of art. You know more, your mind is sharper, your communication skills are improved, you understand yourself and others more fully, and you’re better equipped to handle life’s personal and professional pleasures and challenges. In short, you are changed for the better.
Genuine friendship can have a similar effect. I’ve found that real friends make me a better thinker and person; they make me more complete. Steve Wright, who passed away over the summer, was that kind of friend to me and others, including many members of our department and university. Steve was a MAJOR scholar of medieval drama and an award winning teacher. He made me feel welcome when I joined the department in 1991. Our families shared meals, we camped and hiked together, and we went to lots of baseball games and rock ‘n’ roll shows. Steve was a Deadhead—one of the last shows we saw together was the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers Band at the Verizon Center—and he loved to play his guitar. He was brilliant, generous, kind, funny, and fun. I’ll miss him for the rest of my life and others will too. We can and will honor him by continuing to learn, teach, read, and write to the best of our abilities, and by doing these things with integrity and passion.
Steve’s obituary is below. Here’s a link to one of his favorite songs, The Grateful Dead’s “Ripple,” performed by people around from around the world in a spirit of friendship and communion. God bless you, Steve!
David M. O'Connell Professor of English
Executive Director, Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
Chair, Department of English
Upon graduation in 1972 and by no means satisfied with one year in Germany, Steve was awarded a Rotary International Scholarship. After marrying his best friend, Sue Lloyd, Steve enrolled at the University of Freiburg in Modern German Literature. Fate intervened in the form of student strike of the modern language department, so not wanting to waste the year, Steve took refuge with the Latin faculty (which included Medieval Studies) … the rest is history. Completing his program in Freiburg, Steve received a Certificate of Medieval Studies.
While in Freiburg, he was awarded a Danforth Scholarship to Indiana University, Bloomington. Once again, he intended to study Modern German Literature, but when his records transferred to the Comparative Literature Department, they insisted he was a Medievalist. Steve was awarded his PhD from IU, with a Bachelor of Philosophy from York, England (Fulbright scholar, 1976) along the way. While in Bloomington, Steve was over-joyed at the birth of son William Lloyd Wright in 1980.
In 1982, Steve was employed by The Catholic University of America, Department of English in Washington, DC. He retired from his position of Ordinary Professor in 2013. His love of knowledge, travel and people defined his life. He took advantage of opportunities to teach and lecture in The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, England, Italy and China.
Steve is the author of 3 books, numerous translations and articles. While he received both honors and accolades during his lifetime, if asked, he would say that most important to him was the consideration and respect of his students, colleagues and friends. He was a mentor to many fine young people and remained in contact with former students and up until the day he died. Steve left us on June 28, 2019.
Steve’s wonderful spirit is now in the safe-keeping of his mother, Marilyn; wife, Sue; son, Will and family – grandson, Quinton and daughter-in-law, Maya; brother, David and family – April, John, Tom and Katie; brother-in-law Jon; extended family members and countless friends. Memorial services will be held in Pasadena, CA on August 18th and in Springfield, MO on September 29th.