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

Marsh 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|

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|

Marsh Terry reads SMU history Nov. 6

Alumnus, author, former administrator and English professor emeritus Marsh Terry has lived SMU history. He’ll recount his experiences during 2008 Homecoming Week.

Terry and fellow SMU professor emeritus Darwin Payne will discuss the new edition of Terry’s book From High on the Hilltop: A History of SMU at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 in DeGolyer Library. A reception will precede the reading at 6 p.m.

The event is hosted by DeGolyer Library and the Department of English in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

Admission is free; RSVP is required. Register online or contact Betty Friedrich in DeGolyer Library, 8-3231.

November 3, 2008|Calendar Highlights, News|
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