Remembering David Bartholomae - National Council of Teachers of English
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Remembering David Bartholomae

This post was written by NCTE and CCCC member Stacey Waite.

A force in the field of composition studies, an award-winning scholar, award-winning teacher, generous mentor, colleague, and friend, David Bartholomae, more than anything, turned our field’s attention to students and their work, asked us to look at what our students write, what they actually say on the page as a way of understanding what it means to teach writing. If you were lucky enough to have been Dave’s student in pedagogy, you learned to pay generous and careful attention to your own students’ words; you learned that it was your calling as a teacher of writing to help each writer become themselves.

Dave received his doctoral degree in 1975 from Rutgers University. And while his dissertation was comfortably situated in Victorian literature, Dave was drawn to the University of Pittsburgh to teach composition and was a tireless advocate for the field and for the composition program at Pitt for forty-four years. He barely let a single year go by without teaching first-year writing. He loved the challenge of teaching students who were required to be there. He worked all his years as a teacher to understand the work of first-year writing and to help his students see themselves as writers with something important to say back to the world around them.

It would be easy to fill this remembrance with Dave’s accolades, publications, service to our field, and awards. He was the Carnegie Foundation Pennsylvania Professor of the Year, received the CCCC Exemplar Award, and was awarded CCCC’s Richard Braddock Award early in his career. His collection of essays, Writing on the Margins: Essays on Composition and Teaching, won the MLA Mina Shaughnessy Award. He was co-editor of Ways of Reading (now in its twelfth edition). Dave’s most recent book, Like What We Imagine, was released in 2021 by the University of Pittsburgh Press. He was chair of the CCCC, a member of the MLA Executive Council, and the English department chair at Pitt for 15 years. Dave took great pleasure, as a leader, in bringing people together, especially when bringing them together involved a glass of really good Spanish wine and really tough questions about teaching and writing.

When Dave was in college, he wanted to be a high school English teacher and football coach. Maybe only a handful of us would know this, but in 1989 Dave was on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood while he was coaching a youth soccer team (episode 1602 if you want to look it up!). His pedagogy actually comes through in the video: his gentleness, his confidence, his love of team sports, his ability to break down a complex game into its smaller movements, his generosity and attention toward everyone around him. At the end of the segment, Fred Rogers tells Dave that the young soccer players are “mighty fortunate” to have him as a coach. And I could not agree more. Rest easy, coach. You will be missed.

David Bartholomae, 4/20/47 – 4/4/23


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