1940s Students

At the 1949 Writer’s Conference, the department celebrated graduate and undergraduate students who had won national writing awards, awards sponsored by the Altantic Monthly or Scholastic Magazine. In most cases, these prize-winning essays and stories were written for classes taught by Emily Irvine or Edwin Peterson. This list of winning students included:

Montgomery M. Culver, Jr.Montgomery M. Culver, Jr.: Monty Culver would later join the English department faculty and serve as Director of the Writing Program.

Bernard Fischman: Fischman left Pittsburgh to work as a free-lance copywriter in New York, where he also wrote plays that were produced off Broadway and a novella, The Man Who Rode His 10-Speed Bicycle to the Moon (1979).

Myron CopeMyron Kopelman: Kopelman is fondly remembered by generations of Steelers’ fans as Myron Cope. Cope wrote for the Pitt News, where he also served as Sports Editor. After graduation, he wrote briefly for the Erie Times but then returned to Pittsburgh to write for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and for the University News Service. He had a distinguished career as a free-lance journalist, writing for Sports Illustrated and other magazines. In 1963, he received the E.P. Dutton Prize for “Best Magazine Sports Writing” for a profile of Cassius Clay. He joined the Pittsburgh Steelers broadcast team in 1970. Cope was the author of four books:  Off My Chest (1964, with Jim Brown of the Cleveland Browns), Broken Cigars (1968), The Game That Was: The Early Days of Pro Football (1970), and an autobiography, Myron Cope: Double Yoi! (2002).

William D. Morrissey: Morrissey worked in advertising for Smith, Taylor and Jenkins, a Pittsburgh advertising firm, and later served as an account manager for Landow Advertising Agency.

Tere RíosTere Ríos: Maria Teresa Ríos Versace (1917-1999) was a special student in the English department after the war and published frequently in MSS, the department’s literary magazine. Ríos was born in NY and identified closely with her Puerto Rican ancestry. She was a devout Catholic. She served in the war as a truck driver and civil air patrol pilot. She wrote for Stars and Stripes and later as a stringer for Gannett. She was the author of three novels: An Angel Grows Up (1957), Brother Angel (1963), and The Fifteenth Pelican (1966). The Fifteenth Pelican provided the inspiration for the TV series, The Flying Nun.

Edward W. Speth: Speth did graduate work in Psychology and was director of the Counselling Center, Willamette University.

Dexter E. Robinson: Robinson was president of World Publishing Company in Cleveland, Ohio; then vice-president of Isaac Auerbach in Philadelphia, Pa., computer specialists; then with John Diebold in New York City; and, finally, executive vice-president of Access Corporation in Cincinnati. 


Other BA and MA students include:


Fairy Harsh Clutter (MA 1942) went on to teach at the State Teachers College, Indiana PA. 

Adele Dolokhov (MA 1947) was, with Morton Fine, co-winner of the 1946 Doubleday award for the most promising student of writing at the University of Pittsburgh. She later published a short story, “Small Miracle” in Today’s Woman that was selected by Martha Foley for Best American Short Stories (1949).   

Morton Fine (MA 1947) was also co-winner of the 1946 Doubleday award for the most promising student of writing at the university. He was part of the group doing radio work in the department. After taking his degree, Fine moved to California where he wrote for the radio and where he met David Friedkin, with whom he had a long and successful collaboration. Together, they wrote several nationally broadcast radio shows, including Crime Classics, and then went on to write for film and television. Fine’s movie credits include The Pawnbroker, I Spy, and The Most Deadly Game. His TV credits include The Rifleman, Maverick, and The Virginian. 

Milton P. Foster (MA 1947) became chair of the English department at Eastern Michigan University. He edited Voltaire’s Candide and the Critics. 

William F. Grayburn (BA 1948) completed his PhD at Penn State and had a career in the English department at Indiana University of PA.

Joseph L. GrucciJoseph L. Grucci (MA 1948). During the war, Grucci was part of the University of Pittsburgh group assigned to teach at the American University in Shrivenham. Grucci joined the faculty at Penn State in 1949 as an instructor in English composition. In 1950 he was promoted to Assistant Professor and then to Associate rank in 1956. Although Grucci was listed as a teacher of composition at Penn State, he established his national reputation as a poet, editor, and translator, and he was active in supporting poetry on the Penn State campus. He founded the poetry magazine, Pivot. He was one of the first to translate the poetry of Pablo Neruda (in Three Spanish-American Poets, 1942). He was the author of This Autumn Surely (1935), Tiny Hawks: Poems and Translations (1955), and The Invented Will (1962). After his retirement in 1974, an endowment created Penn State’s Joseph L. Grucci Poetry Center. The Penn State English department also sponsors a Grucci fellowship and a Joseph L. Grucci “work in progress” reading series for graduate students.  

James R. Hayes (BA 1949), a student of Edwin Peterson, wrote for the Pittsburgh Press and for a variety of regional and national magazines, including Outdoor Life, Field & Stream, and Pennsylvania Angler. He was a member of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association and served on its Board of Directors. 

Dorothy M. Hill (M.A. 1948) taught honors courses in English at Peabody High School's Center for Advanced Studies. She was the author of four curriculum guides for high school teachers published by the Center for Learning: Song of Solomon (Toni Morrison), 1988; A Doll's House (Henrik Ibsen), 1989; Frankenstein (Mary Shelly), 1991; and Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston), 1996.

Patricia Hodgkinson (BA 1946) later joined the faculty of Wilson College.

Despoina "Bebe" Spanos IkarisDespoina (“Bebe”) Spanos Ikaris (BA 1943, MA 1947) was one of the first women in the US to receive a Fulbright Scholarship. Spanos earned her PhD at the University of London and had a long career in the English department at Kingsborough Community College, City University of New York. She published a children’s book, The Red Jacket, in 2008 and a translation of Anatoli by Sossa Berni Plakidas in 2010.  

Arlene Jack (BA 1947?) won first prize in a 1945 script writing contest sponsored by KDKA. The script was prepared for an English department course in Radio Writing. She later wrote for KDKA’s ”School of the Air.”

Elaine Kahn (BA 1944) wrote for the Pitt News and went on to a career as a journalist. She wrote an article on the Pitt football team for the Winter 1941-42 issue of Pitt, the alumni magazine, that included a profile of Bill Benghouser, a 215 pound tackle and an English major who could “write like an angel.” 

Lee McInerney (BA 1947) was an award-winning reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Harry Schwalb with Jay DantryHarry M. Schwalb (BA 1947) took graduate courses and served as a lecturer in the department. Schwalb wrote often for the alumni magazine. He was an accomplished artist and became the dean of Pittsburgh art critics, writing regularly for Pittsburgh Magazine. Pittsburgh Magazine gives an “Excellence in the Arts Award” in Schwalb’s name.

Gerald Stern (BA 1947) was not an English major—he majored in Political Science with the thought of becoming a lawyer. In the 1940s, the English department was full of prose and, as a poet, Stern was (as he would insist) largely self-taught. Still, we include him on our list of students for the influence and inspiration he brought to generations of English majors who followed (including Jack Gilbert, BA 1954) and in the belief that the attitudes toward language promoted by the department were part of his general education. Stern talks about this period of his life in a three part video profile, Still Burning, prepared by the Poetry Foundation.

Stern grew up in Pittsburgh. His parents, Harry and Ida Barach Stern, were Eastern European Jews who emigrated to the US. In an interview reported in Poetry Archive, he said,

I went to the University of Pittsburgh, but I didn't even know as a boy where the university was. I discovered it literally by accident. I saw some people lined up on the lawn outside the university registering for courses, and it was the War, and anybody could get into college. And I decided, 'Hey, I'll take classes!' And I became a college student. No one ever advised me. No one at home ever talked to me about college.

Gerald Stern

While a student, Stern served with the Army Air Corps. After graduation, he went to Columbia where he received his MA (1949). He spent a year in Europe, mostly in Paris, and returned to begin work toward a PhD at Columbia, but he soon abandoned the program and taught in high schools, both public and private, and universities—including Temple, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Somerset Country College. Although Stern was always writing poetry, he began to find success in the 1960s. In 1971, he published his first collection, The Piney’s.  

And this began a career of remarkable authority, importance, and influence. His 1977 book, Lucky Life, was the Lamont Poetry Selection of the Academy of American poets and nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award; The Red Coal (1981) received the Melville Caine Award from the Poetry Society of American; This Time: New and Selected Poems (1998) won the National Book Award; Leaving Another Kingdom: Selected Poems (1990) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Bread Without Sugar (1992) won the Paterson Poetry Prize; American Sonnets (2002) was shortlisted for the 2003 International Griffin Poetry Prize; and his Early Collected Poems (2010) received the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry from the Library of Congress. 

Stern was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American poets in 2006, and he served as the poet laureate of New Jersey from 2000-2002. He has a long list of honors and awards from leading journals and foundations, including the Ruth Lily Prize, a National Jewish Book Award, a Wallace Stevens Award, a Guggenheim, and two NEA Fellowships. Later in his career, Stern taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and at Drew University. He is well known and much loved by readers of contemporary American poetry. For an introduction to Stern and his work, we are providing links to a PBS interview with Jeffrey Brown and a podcast from the Poetry Foundation series, Essential American Poets

June Wallace Thomson (BA 1945) served as editor of the Pitt News and as the assistant editor of the yearbook, the Owl, and was a member of Xylon, the honorary journalism fraternity. In 1947, the alumni magazine announced that she had sold a story to The Saturday Evening Post for $1200. She went on to work in advertising in New York.


PhD Graduates (with dissertation titles)


Richard Earl AmacherRichard Earl Amacher (PhD 1947; diss: “The Literary Reputation of Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1882-1945”). Amacher taught at Carnegie Tech, at Yale, at Rutgers, at Henderson State Teachers College and then at Auburn from 1957-1984, where he served as the Hargis Professor of American literature. Amacher was twice appointed a Fulbright Professorship, once at the University of Wurtzburg and once at the University of Konstanz. His books include: American Political Writers, 1588-1800 (Twayne, 1979); Benjamin Franklin (Twayne, 1962), Edward Albee (Twayne, 1969), and Franklin’s Wit and Folly: the Bagatelles (Rutgers UP, 1953). He served as a co-editor of The Flush Times of California (U of Georgia P, 1966) and New Perspectives in German Literary Criticism (Princeton UP, 1979).   

George Denton Beal, Jr. (PhD 1949; diss: “Modern Theories of the Metaphorical Mode of Expression”). Beal was hired as an Assistant Professor at the University of Pittsburgh Johnstown campus.

Thomas Elliott BerryThomas Elliott Berry (PhD 1949; diss: “A History of the Recent Translations of the American Novel into Spanish”). Berry went on to a long career at West Chester State Teacher’s College, where he established and directed the graduate program in English. His books include: Journalism in America (1958), The Most Common Mistakes in English Usage (1961), Values in American Culture (1966), The Biographer’s Craft (1967), The Study of Language: An Introduction (1970), and The Craft of Writing (1974).

James Albert Binney (PhD 1946; diss: “A Study of the Prose and Editorial Work of Josiah Gilbert Holland”). Binney went on to a long career at West Chester State Teachers College.

Samuel Cornelius (PhD 1949; diss: “The Sea as the Core of Conrad”). Cornelius taught in the Department of English at Alma College, where he served as Department Head and Dean of Humanities.  

Charles Rohrer Crow, Jr. (PhD 1948; “The Rhythmic Organization of Emerson’s Four-Stress Verse”). Charles Crow joined the Pitt faculty as an Assistant Professor in 1947. He had a long and distinguished career at the University of Pittsburgh. 

Lewis Henry Fenderson (PhD 1948; diss: “Development of the Negro Press, 1827-1948”). Fenderson, who also received his BA and MA at Pitt, came to the PhD program after working as a journalist for the Pittsburgh Courier. In 1949, Fenderson joined the faculty at Howard University, where he helped to establish Howard’s program in Journalism. Fenderson taught at Howard for 34 years. He had success as a poet, song writer, and playwright, winning the James Weldon Johnson Poetry Prize and a Washington Star Literary grant. He was the author of Thurgood Marshall: Fighter for Justice (1969) and the editor of Black Man in the U.S. and the Promise of America (1970), with Lettie J. Austin and Sophia P. Nelson, and Many Shades of Black, with Stanton L. Wormley (1969).  

William Homer Ford (PhD 1942; diss: “Problems of Lincoln Biography”).

William Wayne Griffith (PhD 1941; diss: “ A study of the Writings of An American Magazinist, J.T. Trowbridge”). Griffith taught at Mary Washington College.

James Welfred Holmes (PhD 1945; diss: “Whittier’s Prose on Reforms Other Than Abolition”). Holmes served as Professor of English at Morgan State University.

James Oliver Hopson (PhD 1948; diss: “Attitudes toward the Negro as an Expression of English Romanticism”). We believe that Hopson taught at Talladega College and was involved with the Talladega Little Theater.

William Castle Hummel (PhD 1946; diss: “Williams Hazlitt’s Political Theories”). Hummel taught in the 1950s as Professor of English at Kansas State College.

Elizabeth Johnston (PhD 1947; diss: “John Forster: Critic”).

James Allison Lowrie (PhD 1943; “A History of the Pittsburgh Stage, 1861-1891”).  

Muriel Hope McClanahan (PhD 1940; diss: “Aspects of Southwestern Regionalism in the Prose Work of Mary Austin”).

Mary Alice Reilly (PhD 1944; “Sir Max Beerbohm: Satirist”). Reilly served as an Instructor at Rhode Island State College. 

Charles Doren TharpCharles Doren Tharp (PhD 1940; diss: “The Frontier in the Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier”). Tharp served as Dean of Liberal Arts, Dean of Administration, and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Miami. He served as the president of the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities from 1953-54.

Cecil V. WickerCecil V. Wicker (PhD 1940; diss: “The Romantic Melancholy of Edward Young: A Study of Its Cause and Influence”). Wicker joined the faculty at the University of New Mexico in 1927. He left New Mexico to complete his PhD at Pitt, then returned to UNM in 1942 and taught there until his retirement in 1960. He wrote on Steinbeck, and he published The American Technical Writer with his UNM colleague, William P Albrecht.

Theressa Byra Wilson (PhD 1943; diss: “Victorian Biography”).

John Negley Yarnall (PhD 1941; diss: “Romance a la Mode, 1896-1906”). From 1939-1962, Yarnall taught at Wilson College, Chamberburg, PA, where he was Professor and department chair. From 1962 until his retirement in 1978, he was chair of the English department at Montgomery College, Maryland. After his retirement, he taught part time at American University in Washington, DC.

Robert Lewis ZetlerRobert Lewis Zetler (PhD 1944; diss: “Life and Works of Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu”). Zetler taught at Chatham College from 1945 to 1960, reaching the rank of Professor, and then at the University of South Florida where he was Director of the Division of Language and Literature, 1960-1973. He contributed to journals in education and engineering. He published several books on technical writing, including some with his Pittsburgh professor, George Crouch: Guide to Technical Writing (1948, 3rd edition 1964, with George Crouch), Chemistry in General Education (1950), Effective Bank Letters (1951), Advanced Writing (1952), Successful Communication in Business and Industry (1960), and Successful Communication in Business and Industry (1961, with George Crouch).