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Dr. Bill Macnaughton

     Tales of uncertain times have a familiar ring to Bill Macnaughton, a faculty member from 1969 to 1996. In his quarter-century at UW he saw student enrolments go up and down on the roller coaster of the economy. Challenging circumstances called for some fresh thinking. As he recalls, "the Department wanted to compete" with the many other universities in Ontario and, although it was a mere nine years old when he came to work at UW, was confident that it could. Many new ideas flourish in trying situations, and "we [in the Department] managed to be creative" in response to financial constraints. As chair from 1980-85, Dr. Macnaughton presided over the Department midway through an era of great change, just after English had expanded to include the co-op option (1977) and just before it rolled out new rhetoric and professional writing programs for the first time (1986). Both innovations, which have become indispensable to the unique degree offerings from which UW undergraduates in English can choose, responded to students’ desire for an education that would set them apart from other English degree holders in the province. (Today, English majors may choose an array of courses from both the literature and the rhetoric and professional writing sides of the program.)

     Of all the memories of the Department he has, Dr. Macnaughton recollects teaching most fondly. "The best teaching experiences for me were the classes in which the atmosphere among the students and the text they were studying came together," he says. What he misses most is the regular opportunity to revisit great literary texts. As he observes, "English professors don’t just read—they re-read," and then they introduce students to the intimate appreciation and knowledge of those texts. And Dr. Macnaughton knew plenty of students. For seventeen years he and his young family lived right on campus, where he served as a faculty residence tutor who worked closely with residence dons to help students adjust to university life. Though staying in constant contact with undergraduates "was a lot of work," it was a wonderful way to get to know what students were thinking, and it made him a better teacher. Despite his retirement in 1996, he maintains a relationship with the University through the Online Education course on Modern American Literature he put together and administers to this day.