Faculty Retirements / Linda Bierds, Sydney Kaplan, Mark Patterson

Submitted by Henry J Laufenberg on

This year the UW English Department sees the retirement of three of our very best professors: Linda Bierds, Sydney Kaplan, and Mark Patterson.  Though it is our good fortune that Linda Bierds and Sydney Kaplan will continue to teach on occasion with us through the UW post retirement rehire program, the void left by this triumvirate exiting will be obvious.  Their academic achievements and contributions to their fields are unquestionably top-tier, as is their participation in shaping what the English department is today and will be in the future.  We pay tribute to our esteemed colleagues and bid them bittersweet good tidings. 


After a long and successful career in the UW English Department’s Creative Writing Program, Professor Linda Bierds retired at the end of Winter quarter 2022.  Bierds is a celebrated, multi award winning poet who has published thirteen books, including ten books of poetry, most recently, The Hardy Tree. She has held, with distinction, the Grace Pollock Professor of Creative Writing.  Before that, she held with equal distinction the Byron W. and Alice L. Lockwood Professor in the Humanities. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies, including The AtlanticThe New YorkerThe SmithsonianPoetry, and The Best American Poetry. In addition to being awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, Linda has received the PEN/West Poetry Prize, the Washington State Governor’s Writers Award, the Consuelo Ford Award from the Poetry Society of America, four Pushcart Prizes, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and twice from the National Endowment for the Arts. She has been awarded a Porch Publications Full-Length Book Award, the Seattle Arts Commission Literary Award, and the Seattle Arts Commission Original Works Award, the Seattle Arts Commission Individual Artist Award, and a Notable Book Selection from the American Library Association, just to name few. Linda directed the MFA program for three years and has edited the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series for UW Press. Within the department, Linda was awarded the Excellence in Teaching Award.  Within the community, Linda has served on the Board of Directors of Copper Canyon Press, and served on the Honorary Committee of the Artist Trust Foundation of Washington.

Professor Richard Kenney, long time faculty colleague of Linda Bierds, recounts an occasion upon when he unknowingly began quoting Linda’s poetry to her: “I was alight with some poetical idea or other, animating the higher slopes of Parnassus with my insight, which I illustrated with a gorgeous image of a seed-swath blooming as a kind of echo or retinal after-image of an historical event. That I couldn’t recall its provenance—Lowell? Rilke?—the Norton would know—didn’t slow me down. That the image was Linda’s—that I was quoting Linda to herself—set the terms for what you might call a drawing-room awkwardness. No gas Zeppelin was ever guided down and moored with greater tact or gentleness .I may have told that parable when I introduced Linda on the occasion of her honorary Faculty Lecture. I recount it partly to note that kindness is even rarer and more to be prized than artistic brilliance. From my personal standpoint, to have found a friend so markedly characterized by both has proven a bodacious piece of life-luck. A generation of students, in a stricter professional sense, could say the same. It’s not difficult to ricochet talk, even routinely intelligent talk, off the reactive armor of a stalled poem. But it is a good deal more difficult to initiate and nurture artistically useful talkLinda’s practice as a workshop instructor has been and remains my benchmark. I’ve seen many, and I think she’s the best.”



Sydney Kaplan retired at the end of Winter quarter 2022 after spending her entire 50-year career at the University of Washington.  Kaplan is a literary scholar of great influence in her fields of 20th century British literature, modernism, and feminism, with specializations in Jane Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, and D.H. Lawrence. She has published three books: Circulating Genius: John Middleton Murry, Katherine Mansfield and D. H. LawrenceKatherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction, and Feminine Consciousness in the Modern British NovelKatherine Mansfield and the Origins of Modernist Fiction was awarded a Choice Outstanding Academic Book in 1992.  In addition to numerous articles, book chapters, reviews (over 35 by our count!), Sydney has served the profession through numerous tenure and promotion reviews as well as by participating in professional organizations, editorial boards, and associations, including the editorial boards for Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature and Genders; Associate Editor of Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society; and the International Advisory Board for Katherine Mansfield Studies. She has also served on every department committee, every prize and awards committee, and numerous search committees within and outside the department. She also participated in the Feminist Theory Colloquium for five years and the Critical Theory Colloquium for another five years. At the campus level, Sydney has served on the College Council, the Faculty Senate, the Special Senate Committee on Faculty Women, has participated in graduate school program reviews, served on the planning committee for the Feminist Theory Conference, and served on the Graduate School Research Fund Review Committee.

After serving as Acting Director of Women’s Studies from 1981-1982, Sydney served as the chair of Women Studies (now Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies), at the time becoming the second chair of that department.  Sydney advocated for the B.A. degree in Women Studies to the Washington State Higher Education Board. She has served as a member of the Women's Studies Faculty Board; chaired the Women Studies Research Group on multiple occasions; served on the Policy Board for the Northwest Center for Research on Women as well as on the NWCROW advisory board for four separate terms. Within the community, Sydney served on the Board of Directors of the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council for five years. Of the awards Sydney won regularly throughout her career, perhaps the most prestigious was the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship. Sydney is a beloved teacher and mentor.  And beyond all else, Sydney has been an exemplar of collegiality.  So often during difficult department conversations, she has known the right thing to say to remind us of our shared values, always approaching issues with a generosity of inquiry.



Mark Patterson is a scholar of American literature, law and literature, literary history, and pedagogy. After earning his PhD from Princeton, Mark began as an Assistant Professor at UW in 1981, where he has spent his entire 40-year career. Mark has published a monograph, Authority, Autonomy, and Representation in American Literature: 1776-1865, and edited Henry D. Thoreau, Journal 3: 1848-1851. He has contributed to the Prentice Hall Anthology of American Literature and to American Literary Scholarship: An Annual. His articles and reviews have appeared in Studies in the NovelAmerican Literary History, American Colonial WritersStudies in American FictionSigns, and Texas Studies in Language and Literature. He has been awarded an NEH Summer Grant, a distinguished teaching award in the Department of English (also named honorable mention one other time), a Graduate School research grant, a Graduate School Faculty Scholar Award, and a Simpson Center Associate Professor Initiative Award.

Mark's record of department teaching, mentoring, and service has been exemplary.  He has directed 24 dissertations and served as dissertation committee member on 34 others. He has chaired or served on 70 PhD exam committees. And he has chaired or served on 28 MA essays.  Mark has also served in various department leadership roles as director of graduate studies, scheduling coordinator, and director and acting director of undergraduate studies, while also serving on every department committee, including several search committees and faculty and program review committees. Beyond the department, he has served, just to name a few examples, as a faculty senate representative three times, on the state committee on high school-college articulation, on the undergraduate education advisory council, on the evening degree curriculum revision committee, and on the Faculty Council on Academic Standards.  He also helped organize the English Department Americanist Colloquium, the Law and Literature Colloquium, the American Studies Collective Colloquium, and the Undergraduate Research Symposium.  Mark's impact on undergraduate education in the department and the UW has been extensive and long lasting, including serving on the Undergraduate Education Committee during our undergraduate major revisions the last three years. In his many leadership roles, Mark would inevitably be called on to solve problems.  And one way or another, Mark would inevitably figure things out with a calming perspective and good humor.


Please join us in thanking Linda Bierds, Sydney Kaplan, and Mark Patterson for their countless contributions to our department, the humanities division, university, and profession, as well as to the generations of students, undergraduate and graduate, they have taught. We wish them all the best in retirement!