Academics and Research / News

Hesse named DU distinguished scholar

Doug Hesse was named DU's Distinguished Scholar at the University's 2011 Convocation. Photo: Wayne Armstrong

Doug Hesse started college as a chemistry major. It seemed like a practical choice for a man with a blue-collar upbringing. But shortly into his college career, he realized he needed a change. Hesse was working hard and only getting B’s, so he decided to try writing instead.

Hesse, who’s now director of DU’s Writing Program, has become one of the nation’s leading writing scholars. He’s been president of the Council of Writing Program Administrators, chair of the Conference on College Communication and chair of the executive committee of the Modern Language Association on Teaching as a Profession. He’s also served on the executive committee of the National Council of Teachers of English. He’s written more than 50 articles and book chapters, co-authored four books and presented at more than 70 conferences.

And now, the University of Denver is honoring him with the 2010–11 Distinguished Scholar Award.

“He exemplifies the best in scholarship — careful work on important issues, developed with a generosity of spirit, composed in a language that’s as elegant as it is compelling,” says Kathleen Blake Yancey, the Kellogg Hunt Professor of English at Florida State University.

Yancey has known Hesse since the 1990s and calls him arguably the leading scholar in the area of creative non-fiction in high school and college.

“He is viewed as a fine teacher, a fine leader, and a fine scholar, someone who basically always bats it out of the park regardless of the task,” she says. “And in all this work he is generous, inclusive, helpful — a wonderful colleague, collaborator, mentor and leader.”

Hesse has been at DU since 2006 and is in charge of the longitudinal study being conducted on the writing of DU students. He expects the study’s results to inform ways to improve writing at DU and at universities across the country.

Kelli Custer, a lecturer in the writing program, has known Hesse since 2004 and took the position at DU “largely for the opportunity to work with [Hesse].”

“I’m astonished by the amount of important work he does in the field and on a national level,” she says. “It’s remarkable that he can be so productive and still find time to go hiking, go to the movies and attend social gatherings of his co-workers.”

Hesse also sings in the Colorado Symphony Chorus. He auditioned in 2006 and has been a member of the choir ever since. He’s so passionate about singing, he’s writing a creative non-fiction book about a year in the life of a choral singer.

“This is a tremendous honor,” Hesse says of the award. “It really comes as a surprise.”

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