Dr. Edgar Laird, 1937 - 2019
June 19th, 2019
From Dr. Dan Lochman, Chair of the Department of English:
I am saddened to report that Dr. Edgar Laird died this morning at his home after several days of care there and after a long illness. In his last days, he enjoyed the company of his wife Judith, son Brennus, and other members of his family. He will be missed not only by family but also by faculty in English and across campus, as well as by thousands of retired faculty and former students. A memorial service is scheduled for 3 pm, June 28, at Pennington Funeral Home in San Marcos.
Edgar was associated with Texas State University for more than sixty years, over half of its existence. He attended Southwest Texas State College in San Marcos as an undergraduate, earning a BA in English and History in 1960. As a graduate student, he completed an MA in English here in 1961. He then attended Rutgers University for his PhD, completing it in 1966. He returned to San Marcos the same year to teach Chaucer to undergraduate and graduate students. He went on to teach here for forty-eight years, completing phased retirement in 2014. Even after retiring, Edgar asked to teach a single class of first-year writing each semester until 2018, just so he could stay in the classroom: he and his students enjoyed the experience.
At Texas State Edgar taught more than twenty-two different graduate and undergraduate courses. His careful preparation and concern for individual students as a teacher and thesis advisor shaped the intellectual lives of thousands, including the students in Mathematics, History, German and Philosophy on whose thesis committees he served.
He was the world’s leading expert on texts on the astrolabe, the medieval navigational tool, in the Middle Ages. His edition and translation of Pelerin de Prusse’s Practique de Astralabe filled a gap in the scholarship in this area. As one reviewer of the volume commented, “[W]e can now read Pelerin’s text with confidence and convenience. A definite advance has been made.” Dr. Laird’s writings include nearly thirty book chapters and articles, many linking medieval writings by authors such as Boethius, Grosseteste, Christine de Pizan, and Chaucer with scientific and mathematical knowledge. He received national recognition also while attending two NEH Summer Institute Fellowships.
Edgar served the institution of Texas State with distinction. As University Ombudsman, he mediated faculty issues related to grievances and conflicting interests. He served on many important University committees, including the Tenure and Promotion Appeals Committee, the Executive Committee, and the University Teacher Education Council. His various administrative roles include serving as English Department Curriculum Supervisor and Chair of the English Department Teacher Preparation Committee.
During his long, distinguished career, Edgar epitomized the best of our alumni and the best of professors at Texas State University. He will be remembered as humane, collegial, a mediator and facilitator, a model for colleagues and students alike of a student-oriented intellectual devoted to teaching, and a thorough and profound thinker in his research. Edgar lived the words he often taught and repeated, taken from a description in the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales about another scholar, the Clerk of Oxford: “gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche.”
Mrs. Laird has requested that, in lieu of flowers, donations should be sent to the Department of English, where they will be used to support a deserving student.
Dr. Lydia Blanchard, 2019
May 18th, 2019
From Dr. Dan Lochman, Chair of the Department of English:
Dr. Lydia Blanchard died on May 17, following a years-long illness.
Many faculty currently teaching in the English Department knew and/or were hired by Lydia during her 12 years as Chair of the department in the 1990s. She completed a MS and BS in Journalism at Northwestern University in the late 50s, and then in the early 1960s pursued non-degree studies at Syracuse University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Utah. In 1971 she received a MA and in 1973 a PhD in literary studies, both from the American University. In 1997 she attended a Management Development Program at Harvard.
Lydia was an accomplished scholar of American literature, with a focus on the works of D. H. Lawrence, their presentation of female characters, and their relation to sexual politics and feminist theory. She co-edited and introduced a special issue of *The D. H. Lawrence Review* (Summer 1988) and with former faculty members June Hankins and Mimi Tangum wrote the introduction to and edited *Writing Is Thinking—Writing Across the Disciplines at Southwest Texas State University: A Resource Guidebook for Faculty.* She published 9 chapters in books and 10 refereed journal articles, in addition to essays and reviews.
Dr. Blanchard was also at the forefront of grant-writing at a crucial time of growth for the Department of English. In 1997-1998, she was project director for a NEH Institute for High School Teachers ($129,450), and in 1990 project co-director for a NEH Special Initiative Challenge Grant Award to Endow a Distinguished Teaching Professorship ($100,000), an endowment that is the foundation of the current NEH Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. Also in 1990, she was the principal writer for a Meadows Foundation grant ($125,000) to establish the Center for the Study of the Southwest, receiving a $46,000 supplement for the same in 1990-1991. She was project director for a Ford Foundation award to broaden cultural and intellectual diversity on campus ($76,880), for a NEH award ($34,750) to sponsor the conference "The Spirit of Place," and for a Seawell Elam Foundation grant ($10,000) for mentoring junior faculty.
In 1990-1991, she served as acting director of the Center for the Study of the Southwest; she was Director of Planning for the School of Liberal Arts from 1988-1990 and 1991-1993. She chaired the Department of English from 1993 to 2005, having previously directed the Center for Multicultural and Gender Studies from 1986-1990 and 1991-1993. From 1993 to 2005. As department Chair, she inaugurated many changes in the undergraduate and graduate curricula, helped develop the MA in Technical Communication, and achieved growth in other graduate and undergraduate programs. During those years, she also served on many university committees, including as a member and co-chair of the President’s Council for Women in Higher Education, and a member of a Presidential Task Force on Academic Honesty, a SACS steering committee, an Enrollment Management Advisory Committee, a Grants Administration Policy Committee, the Advisory Committee for the Renovation of Flowers Hall, Women’s Studies Council, and many others. In 2005, she received a Special Presidential Assignment to work with Jerome Supple.
Professionally, among many other accomplishments, she was President of the D. H. Lawrence Society of North America (1992-1994), and she served on the editorial board of The D. H. Lawrence Review (1984-1986, 1986-1993). She was a panelist at 4 conferences overseeing NEH projects and a reviewer for the Division of Research Programs. In 1991 she served as co-convener for the Evaluation and Dissemination session for NEH project directors.
Lydia retired in 2007 and was subsequently awarded the title Distinguished Professor of English Emerita in recognition of her many accomplishments.
Dr. John Hill, 1929-2019
Born in Winfield, Kansas in 1929, John earned a BS in journalism in 1951 and a MA in 1956. He earned both degrees at the University of Kansas, with his studies interrupted for two years because of his service in the Army during the Korean War. At the University of Kansas, he met Lucy, and they married in 1955.
In 1960, he completed a PhD in English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Already in 1959, he had taken a position as instructor at Ohio University. In 1962, he was hired as an associate professor at Illinois State University, where he earned the rank of professor in 1977, the same year he and his family moved to San Marcos and then-Southwest Texas State University. At Illinois State, John had served three years as assistant head of the English department and two years as director of graduate studies. From 1975 to 1977, he was Executive Director of the Academic Affairs Conference of Midwestern Universities. After moving to San Marcos, he served as Dean of the Graduate School from 1977 to 1982.
After 1982, John taught in the Department of English until he retired in 2008. In addition to teaching first-year writing and surveys of literature, he taught undergraduate courses on creative writing and a wide range of American writers, including Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, Clemens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. He offered graduate seminars on creative writing, T. S. Eliot, Stevens, Frost, Bellow, Updike, and others. He published a book that was a checklist of the works of Frank Norris, and he published critical studies of Norris, Poe, Bellow, Emily Brontë, Updike, Hemingway, and others. He directed grant programs from the Rockefeller Foundation for training women and minorities to take university administrative posts; from Standard Oil for developing cooperative education; from the US Office of Education, for developing graduate programs, and from NSF for overseeing financial accountability of grant programs.
At Texas State, John contributed service to the university both as Graduate Dean and as a member of our department. He served on the “Steeples of Excellence Committee,” the Teacher Education Council, Public Service Council, Internal Development Council, the Organized Research Committee, Graduate Council, and he participated in many other service activities, including announcing scholarships at the department’s annual Awards Day.
On behalf of colleagues and friends in the department of English, I express our condolences to his sons Rob and Ros and their families. John will be missed.