SMU’s DeGolyer Library celebrates Joe Coomer’s life in letters

Marshall Terry

SMU’s DeGolyer Library celebrates Joe Coomer’s life in letters

Author Joe Coomer, SMU '81

Award-winning author and SMU alumnus Joe Coomer will be celebrated in a retrospective exhibition running through May 24 at SMU’s DeGolyer Library.

The career and achievements of acclaimed author and SMU alumnus Joe Coomer is celebrated in a retrospective exhibition running through Friday, May 24, 2013 in SMU’s DeGolyer Library.

“Joe Coomer: A Life in Letters” explores Coomer’s creative process using handwritten drafts, manuscripts, galleys, letters, first editions, translations and other materials drawn from the literary archive he recently donated to DeGolyer Library.

The gift of more than 20 boxes of materials includes essays and stories, tests, a transcript and other papers from Coomer’s time as an undergraduate in SMU’s creative writing program. He graduated in 1981.

Known for his graceful prose and memorable characters, Coomer has published eight works of fiction, two non-fiction books and one collection of poetry. His writing has been praised by The Boston Globe as “fresh and authentic” and as “compelling” and a “genuine pleasure” by The New York Times.

The Decatur Road: A Novel of the Appalachian Hill Country by Joe Coomer

A 30th-anniversary edition of Joe Coomer’s debut novel, ‘The Decatur Road: A Novel of the Appalachian Hill Country,’ has been published by SMU’s DeGolyer Library. Coomer graduated from the University in 1981.

“Joe Coomer is one of the great voices to emerge from SMU’s English department and creative writing program,” says Russell L. Martin III ’78, ’86, DeGolyer director. “We are honored and delighted to have his papers, where they will join our growing collection of the archives of other contemporary writers. It is also fitting, during SMU’s centennial, that we recognize our own.”

A 30th-anniversary edition of Coomer’s debut novel, The Decatur Road: A Novel of the Appalachian Hill Country, will be published by DeGolyer Library in conjunction with the exhibit. He will sign copies and talk about his work at a reception and lecture Thursday, April 18 as part of the SMU Founders’ Day weekend. The event will begin at 6 p.m. at the library and will be free and open to the public.

First published in 1983, the book won the Jesse A. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Arts and Letters in 1984. He started writing the book as an SMU student.

“I wrote three of the short segments for an independent study with Marsh [Terry]. He liked them, so after I graduated, I wrote 55 more,” Coomer says.

Terry ’53, ’54, who retired in 2007 as the E. A. Lilly Professor of English, founded the creative writing program and the SMU Literary Festival and became Coomer’s mentor and friend.

“Joe Coomer transferred into SMU and came to my office in Dallas Hall and asked, ‘Are you the writing teacher?’ I nodded my head and did my best, and Joe turned out to be the leader of our nationally celebrated SMU Literary Festival. John Updike and Raymond Carver heard him read at the festival and were impressed,” Terry recalls.

> Read the full story from SMU News

 

March 22, 2013|Calendar Highlights, News|

Marshall Terry to receive 2012 SMU Literati Award

Author and SMU Professor Emeritus Marshall TerryMarshall Terry, the emeritus professor and alumnus affectionately known as “Mr. SMU,” will be honored with the Friends of the SMU Libraries Literati Award at the 2012 Tables of Content dinner Saturday, March 31.

The celebration begins at 6 p.m. at the James M. Collins Executive Education Center with a cocktail reception honoring Top Ten Haute Young Authors, and featuring entertainment by magician and SMU President’s Scholar Trigg Watson. The honorees include Matt Bondurant, Christopher Heaney, P.J. Hoover, Paul Otremba, Dominic Smith, Michael Anthony Steele, Becky Wade, Christine Warren, Jo Whittemore and JoaquÍn Zihuatanejo.

The presentation of Terry’s award and Tables of Content dinner will follow at 7:15 p.m., with SMU faculty members (and other interesting members of the Dallas community) serving as table hosts.

Michael H. Collins and Melissa A. Collins ’10 are honorary chairs for the event.

“As SMU commemorates its centennial, we decided there was no one more fitting to honor than ‘Mr. SMU,’ Marshall Terry,” says Amy Carver, director of Friends of the SMU Libraries. “His legacy as a writer, teacher and mentor to generations of writers is just one of the many reasons we chose to honor him with the Literati Award this year.”

Terry, E.A. Lilly Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English in Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, helped President Willis M. Tate write SMU’s 1963 Master Plan, which laid the foundation for the Strategic Plan guiding the University today.

Terry earned Bachelor’s (’53) and Master’s degrees (’54) from SMU. He introduced the creative writing specialty into the English major, served twice as chair of the English Department, founded the nationally recognized SMU Litfest and has directed SMU programs in Madrid, Oxford and Taos. He also served as Faculty Senate president and associate provost for undergraduate education.

His latest book, Loving U: The Story of a Love Affair (And Some Lover’s Quarrels), is an affectionate narrative of Terry’s involvement with SMU over six decades, told with characteristic wit and wisdom. “His life’s work is inextricably bound up in the history of SMU, and his memoir provides us with a valuable perspective on SMU’s past,” said Russell L. Martin III, director of SMU’s DeGolyer Library, which published the book in late 2011.

The Literati Award was created by the Friends of the SMU Libraries in 2010 to honor the 40th anniversary of the founding of the organization, to celebrate the power of the written word and to recognize significant achievements in creativity. The Friends of the SMU Libraries is an organization dedicated to promoting and enriching the resources, services and operations of the eleven SMU libraries. In 40 years, the Friends have funded more than $750,000 in library materials and services.

Past Literati Award winners include former First Lady Laura Bush ’68 (2011) and noted screenwriter and author James V. Hart ’69 (2010).

Tickets are $150 and are available for online purchase. Table sponsorships are also available. All reservations must be received by Monday, March 26. Black tie is optional, and valet parking will be available. For more information, contact Cindy Ruppi, 214-768-3225.

Written by Nancy George

> Visit Friends of the SMU Libraries online at smu.edu/friends

Dedman College honors ‘Mr. SMU’ Marsh Terry at 2011 celebration

Marsh Terry at a booksigning for 'The Memorialist'After more than 50 years at SMU, Marshall Terry still regularly visits his office in the Department of English in Dallas Hall. But his influence reaches throughout the University.

Terry – the E.A. Lilly Professor of English, founder of SMU’s Creative Writing Program, and former director of public relations and assistant to SMU President Willis M. Tate – was honored March 23 with the Dedman College Distinguished Graduate Award for his contributions to SMU.

Terry first stepped onto the SMU campus as a student, graduating in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in English and in 1954 with a master’s degree. He stayed as a member of the faculty, chairing English for two terms and initiating the University’s award-winning creative writing program and the long-running Literary Festival.

A mentor and friend to his students, Terry helped launch the careers of novelists Joe Coomer, Douglas Terry, Tracy Daugherty and Lewis Shiner, among others.

“I took great joy in starting the creative writing program,” he says. “I’ve worked with wonderful students through the years.”

In addition to his academic career, Terry played an important role as an administrator in shaping SMU’s future. As director of public relations and assistant to President Tate, he wrote in 1963 SMU’s first Master Plan – the framework for the University’s current Strategic Plan.

“Looking back, I consider the opportunity to work on the Master Plan as one of the most rewarding parts of my career. That plan is central to everything that has happened at SMU since then,” says Terry, who has been known as “Mr. SMU” to his colleagues for years.

The author of nationally praised short story collections and novels such as Old Liberty, Tom Northway, My Father’s Hands and The Memorialist, Terry has received highest honors from the Texas Institute of Letters and PEN Texas. His histories of SMU, From High on the Hilltop: A Brief History of SMU, and its third edition, Marshall Terry’s History of SMU with Various Essays by His Colleagues, are important resources as SMU celebrates the centennial of its 1911 founding and 2015 opening.

The Dedman Distinguished Graduate Award honors outstanding graduates of Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences whose lives demonstrate integrity and outstanding accomplishments.

Written by Nancy George

> Visit the Dedman College website

March 22, 2011|News|

The view “From High on the Hilltop”

'From High on the Hilltop' coverSMU alumnus, author and Professor Emeritus Marsh Terry shared a Homecoming Week panel with Journalism Professor Emeritus and Dallas historian Darwin Payne to celebrate a new edition of Terry’s classic 1993 history of SMU. The 2008 release of From High on the Hilltop: Marshall Terry’s History of SMU with Various Essays by his Colleagues features 14 essays on topics such as the state of Dallas at SMU’s founding, the University’s early women leaders, sports traditions, student life and SMU-in-Taos.

The essayists include SMU President R. Gerald Turner, English Professor Jack Myers, Associate Vice President and Executive Director of Public Affairs Patricia Ann LaSalle and the late James Caswell, former vice president of student affairs. The book also includes historical photos, some newly culled from the SMU Archives especially for this edition.

“The essays are a good cross section and make a nice balance,” says Terry (’53, ’54), E.A. Lilly Professor Emeritus of English in Dedman College and a recipient of SMU’s 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award. “All the writers have SMU experience from which to draw.”

Terry, who retired in 2007 after 52 years as a teacher and administrator, says he enjoyed telling the SMU story because he lived it. “I knew of so much that happened throughout the different eras of the presidents from Willis M. Tate to R. Gerald Turner,” he says.

“SMU is an important part of higher education in the United States, Texas and Dallas,” says Payne, also a contributor to the book. “It’s always important to know your past.”

The new edition of the book is published as SMU prepares to celebrate the centennial of its founding in 2011 and opening in 2015. It is available from the SMU Bookstore, publisher Three Forks Press and Amazon.com.

The SMU Faculty Club will host a book-signing with Terry 4-6 p.m. Nov. 19 in the Faculty Club. Wine and cheese will be served. RSVP by Nov. 17 to Dee Powell, 8-3012.

November 13, 2008|News|
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