Honoring Leon Gatlin, One of the Founders of the English Department — With the death of Leon Gatlin on October 3, 2019, the English Department lost a friend, a former colleague, and a link to the department’s origin story. A native of North Carolina, Leon earned his B.A. and M.A. in English from Wake Forest and his Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. He joined UNC Charlotte’s English Department in 1966 and remained a member of the faculty until his retirement in 2001. Even after his official retirement, he continued to teach courses in the department for several more years on a part-time basis.
When Leon first came to UNC Charlotte in 1966, the university was still a young institution. In fact, he arrived just one year after Charlotte College became the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Leon played a key leadership role in building the English Department during this formative period in the university’s history. For many years, he served as the department’s Undergraduate Coordinator, and in this capacity, he contributed to the operation and growth of the department. A specialist in British literature, Leon developed and regularly taught many of the British literature courses offered by the department. He also contributed to the department’s writing program and served as the Director of the UNC Charlotte Writing Project for a number of years.
One of my early memories of Leon dates back to the fall of 1984, a few months after I joined the department. At that time, Leon was the Undergraduate Coordinator, and he was in charge of the process by which students registered for their courses for the next semester. The process was completely different then as compared to today’s process. It involved having the students go to the gym and then migrate from table to table picking up a computer punch card for each of the courses that they wanted to take. Leon asked for volunteers to assist with the registration process, so I signed up to help. I remember being overwhelmed by the chaotic nature of the whole process, but I also remember how calm and cool Leon was throughout the process. No matter what problems arose, he remained unflappable. Somehow Leon solved every problem, and in the end, all of the students succeeded in registering for their classes. That was the first time I associated Leon with the Bill Withers’s hit song “Lean on Me” from 1972. However, I made a slight change to the line “We all need somebody to lean on.” Here is how the line goes in my version: “We all need somebody to Leon.”
Thank you, Leon.
Upcoming Events and Deadlines — Here is information about upcoming events and deadlines:
October 10 — A memorial service for Leon Gatlin will be held at 3:00 pm on Thursday, October 10, at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 1510 E. 7th St., Charlotte.
Quirky Quiz Question — Leon Gatlin long valued the English Department’s sense of camaraderie and collegiality. In fact, on the day that he died, he and Mike Doyle from the Department of Languages and Culture Studies were heading to Topsail Island to socialize and play a little golf with two former chairs of the English Department. Can you identify these two former chairs of our department?
Last week’s answer: Frank Oz
Jim Henson worked with many puppeteers over the course of his career, but there was one puppeteer he worked with on almost every project he did. This was the puppeteer behind Miss Piggy. This same puppeteer also controlled Yoda from Star Wars. What is the name of this puppeteer?