Teaching Award at The Citadel Named in Honor of Kent Emery, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Notre Dame

Author: Kelli Brown

Kent Emery Professor Emeritus Program of Liberal Studies and Medieval Institute

Recently, Kent Emery, Jr., Professor Emeritus, Program of Liberal Studies and the Medieval Institute, was notified that an annual teaching award has been established and endowed in his honor at The Citadel (The Military College of South Carolina), Charleston, South Carolina, where he held his first academic appointment and where he taught in the Department of English 50 years ago (1972-1979). The teaching award is named jointly in honor of Emery’s former colleague in the English Department at The Citadel, Professor Walter Bland Mathis, Jr. (†1997). The benefactor of the endowed teaching award is Mr. Charles Corbin of Winter Park, Florida. The inaugural Emery-Mathis Award for Excellence in Teaching in the Humanities was conferred at the year-end faculty party and awards ceremony of the School of Humanities & Social Sciences at The Citadel on May 11, 2023 (Watts House, 169 Moultrie St., Charleston). The first recipient of the Emery-Mathis Award is Prof. Lauren Rule Maxwell, Department of English, Fine Arts, and Communications, The Citadel. Professor Emery’s daughter, Dr. Lanier Summerall and her husband, Thomas Summerall, of Charleston, represented her father at the awards ceremony at The Citadel.

Professor Emery recalls his appointment at The Citadel, and the heavy teaching responsibilities of the faculty at the College when he taught there:

“You can imagine my surprise when I learned that an annual teaching award has been established and endowed in my honor at The Citadel, a half-century after I taught there. Probably reflecting the influence of many faculty in the Department who, until that time, had received their Ph.Ds at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the curriculum of English language and literature at The Citadel had a strong philological foundation. The literature and language programs at my graduate unversity, the University of Toronto, were likewise known for their strong philological character, so I seemed a good match for the program at The Citadel. When I taught there, teaching duties at The Citadel were arduous and demanding: faculty taught four (3-hour) courses each semester. In the Department of English, every faculty member taught one or two sections of Freshman Composition each semester. Each class comprised ca. 25 students, and each student was required to write one essay a week; that meant that each professor typically marked 1000-2000 freshman essays per year (according to the scheme of the old Harbrace Handbook). Besides teaching Freshman Composition and taking regular turns teaching the Sophomore Survey of English Literature (Beowulf to T.S. Eliot), I was responsible for the course in the History of the English Language, required of all Majors, and the elective courses in Old English Language and Literature and Medieval Literature featuring Chaucer. Moreover, I was privileged to teach a year-long Seminar on all three books (Inferno, Purgatory, Paradise) of Dante's Divine Comedy, which, in the institutional setting of The Citadel and the cultural setting of old Charleston, was a remarkable, especially gratifying teaching experience. In the graduate Masters of Arts in Teaching Program offered by the English Department, I regularly taught a course in the Introduction to Linguistics and a course in Semantics. Furthermore, at that time at The Citadel the English Department was responsible for organizing and administering the curriculum in Philosophy; because of my interdisciplinary education in Mediaeval Studies, I was asked to teach the courses in Logic and Ethics in that curriculum. Finally, at the end of my career at The Citadel, because I purportedly "knew old languages''(!), I was asked to teach English to young officers-in-training of the Iranian Navy and Air Force, whom the Shah M. Reza Phalavi had sent to The Citadel for a couple of years training at the College (and the Charleston Naval Base). In the second year of the program, however, the Revolution took place in Iran: half of the Iranian cadets, who were sons of the rich financial class surrounding the Shah, left The Citadel to live happily ever after with their exiled families in Los Angeles; the other half of Iranian cadets, who were peasants in origin, eagerly returned to Iran to join the Revolution. In sum, students in the English Department at The Citadel benefited from an intense education in the arts of the ancient Trivium, grammar, rhetoric and dialectic. My teaching at the old military college was a strong practical preparation for my teaching, years later, in the Program of Liberal Studies at Notre Dame, wherein over my career, besides Great Books Seminars, I taught courses in literature, philosophy, theology and intellectual history.”