Memorial Day — The history of Memorial Day dates back to the conclusion of the Civil War. The holiday started as a way to commemorate the soldiers who died during the Civil War, but gradually the scope of the day expanded to include the commemoration of all Americans who died while serving in the military. Memorial Day became an official federal holiday in 1967, and nowadays most Americans have the day off from work but not everyone.
Unlike the faculty and students at UNC Charlotte, the members of the staff are expected to report to the University on Memorial Day or take the day as one of their vacation days. This practice seems wrong to me. Many members of our staff have family members and friends who died while in service to their country, and I believe that these staff members should not have to use their vacation time to observe Memorial Day. Angie Williams, for example, always thinks about her son, Josh Edwards, and her son’s best friend, Josh Blaney, on Memorial Day. The two Joshes served in the Army with tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Angie’s son lived to come home, but Josh Blaney lost his life in Afghanistan. UNC Charlotte prides itself as an institution that honors the men and women who have served in the military. Making Memorial Day a holiday for everyone who works at UNC Charlotte would provide concrete evidence that the University really does honor military service. So long as the University expects the staff to report to work on Memorial Day, the University’s proclamation that it is “veteran friendly” rings a bit hollow.
On Turning Sixty — This week I turn sixty. Reaching this milestone prompts me to reflect a bit on my career as an English professor. For the past thirty-one years I have taught children’s literature in this English Department. During that span of time, I have never taken a semester off from teaching, not because I have some sort of martyr complex but because I find teaching in this department to be immensely rewarding. I have friends who teach children’s literature at other universities who often feel belittled and besieged because their colleagues do not take children’s literature seriously. I have not had this experience. I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue my career in a department that values children’s literature as legitimate field of study.
Even though I know that the majority of my teaching days are already receding in the rearview mirror, I hope to continue teaching in this department for many years to come. There are two professors who have taught in this department for more years than I have—Boyd Davis and Anita Moss—and they are my role models. My other role model is my father. He did not retire until he turned eighty, so perhaps I will be lucky enough to follow in his footsteps and keep teaching for another twenty years.
Quirky Quiz Question — Memorial Day dates back to the late 1860s, but the holiday was not originally called Memorial Day. What was the original name for this holiday?
Last week’s answer:
Quirky Quiz Question — Summer is a special time of the year in the lives of young people, which might explain why so many coming-of-age stories take place during the summer. Below are descriptions of three classic coming-of-age novels all of which have the word summer in their title. See if you can the titles of these books:
1. This classic story of first love takes place in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, in the late 1930s. Seventeenth Summer
2. This novel deals with a Jewish girl who befriends an enemy soldier who escapes from a prison camp in Arkansas. Summer of My German Soldier
3. This novel is set on Nantucket Island and deals with an adolescent boy’s infatuation with the a young woman whose husband is killed during World War Two. Summer of ’42