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Value Beyond Words

October 21, 2013

Writing is central to an educated life. So it comes as no surprise that employers and graduate schools place a high premium on those who convey ideas through clear, compelling language. Effective scientists, teachers, attorneys, and business professionals—people in all walks of life—are effective communicators.

And so, at Lewis & Clark, our faculty and staff have long prepared students to become agile writers. Beginning this fall and continuing into 2014, we will celebrate one of our most lauded professors and writers: William Stafford. A member of our English department for more than 30 years, Bill was consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (a position now known as poet laureate) and poet laureate of Oregon. January 17 will mark what would have been his 100th birthday.

This issue of the Chronicle includes reflections on the enduring relevance of Stafford’s work and the impact he had on members of our community. In the coming months, I hope you will join us for one or more opportunities to celebrate his legacy. (See the schedule and more at William Stafford Centennial)

At Lewis & Clark, writing is at the core of scholarship and creative expression, and is—as our alumni attest—a tool for getting things done and making a mark in the world.

Writing runs through our College of Arts and Sciences. Small classes in our English department allow students to work directly with such award-winning writers as John Callahan, Mary Szybist, and Pauls Toutonghi. Whether majoring in classics or minoring in neuroscience, students expand their critical perspective through writing. Conducting research with faculty, our students know that inquiry and analysis are only part of the equation. Their work isn’t finished until findings are clearly explained to peers and the public. Over their time here, our students refine their skills as they progress from the core requirements of Exploration and Discovery to the rigors of a senior thesis.

And writing is a strength across our campuses. Our law school’s Legal Analysis and Writing Program, for example, earns national recognition. The breadth of courses, says Program Director and Professor of Law Steve Johansen J.D. ’87, “gives our students a rigorous preparation so they are ready to hit the ground running when they enter practice.”

Our Graduate School of Education and Counseling helps aspiring writers and teachers of writing hone their skills and find their voices. Two prime initiatives are the Northwest Writing Institute— directed by Bill Stafford’s son Kim, a widely acclaimed poet, writer, and teacher—and the Oregon Writing Project, headed by Linda Christensen.

Writing is learning—to write well is to think well—so it is arduous, maddening, and clarifying, sometimes all at once, and always worth the effort. At Lewis & Clark, this Stafford centennial year, we are all the better for our focus on the promise and the power of the written word.


Barry Glassner


President Glassner is the author of a number of books, including the national bestseller The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things, and commentary in national publications.

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