Kenneth Schiff, Ph.D., an associate professor in the English Department is retiring after 28 years of teaching at Mercyhurst.
Schiff will direct his final Literary Festival this Thursday, April 23, at 8 p.m. in Taylor Little Theatre. The evening will be the capstone event to this year’s festival and will feature the unveiling of the student Literary Magazine, Lumen. While it may be Schiff’s last time as the director of the festival, his contributions will not be forgotten, according to this year’s Lumen editors, juniors Caroline Magoc and Hailey Carone.
Carone and Magoc have both taken classes taught by Schiff and said they have appreciated his contributions to their writing, as well as to Lumen.
“Dr. Schiff may be going, but he will never truly be gone. The festival is such a powerful legacy,” Magoc said.
The editors expect that this year’s Lumen unveiling will be particularly emotional, as Schiff has significantly contributed to Mercyhurst’s English Department and creative writing program and his presence will be missed.
“Everyone has such positive feelings about Dr. Schiff,” Carone said.
Schiff has been instrumental to the festival’s success through the years.
After co-founding the festival, Schiff actively recruited his colleagues in collaboration to create a festival that highlights a number of diverse literary styles and artistic expression.
Gregory Brown, Ph.D., professor in the English Department and director of the Writing Center, has worked alongside Schiff as the poetry coordinator for the literary festival.
“[Schiff] was instrumental in organizing the AIM program and the literary festival. He’s been here nearly a third of the university’s existence. You can’t deny that Dr. Schiff has been a fundamental part of Mercyhurst,” Brown said.
Brown said he recalls with great fondness, not only Schiff’s contributions to Mercyhurst, but his enjoyment of literary analysis and debate.
“I’ve been drawn into his office sometimes. We’ve had some great discussions about literature,” Brown said. Christiana Riley Brown, Ph.D., chair of the English Department, has been a colleague of Schiff’s for almost a decade.
Schiff helped make Riley-Brown feel welcome when she first began her career at Mercyhurst.
“The thing about Dr. Schiff is that he’s very open with everyone me meets. You know when you meet Dr. Schiff that you have met someone,” Riley Brown said.
The English Department is currently pursuing a creative writing professor to fill Schiff’s position.
However, the department will not be the same, according to Riley Brown.
“You can never replace Dr. Schiff,” Riley Brown said.
English Department staff members are not the only people affected by Schiff’s retirement. Many alumni have reached out to the department, expressing congratulations to the professor and gratitude for being an integral of their Mercyhurst experience.
Co-Founder of the Literary Festival, English professor Jeffery Roessner, Ph.D., is a former student of Schiff’s as well. Roessner helped model the festival after other literary events he attended in graduate school at the University of Notre Dame.
Roessner credits Schiff with helping to improve his writing as an undergraduate student.
“He was terrific. He had terribly high standards,” Rossener said about his time as an undergraduate in Schiff’s class. Schiff was tough on correcting mistakes. He marked writing samples for students to correct and resubmit.
“I remember how rigorous his class was, but it was inspiring to have an English teacher who appreciated modern literature like I did. It was inspiring to know that he and I shared the same literary interests,” Roessner said.
This spring marks Schiff’s’ last full year at Mercyhurst, but retirement will not end his involvement with the university. He will return to Mercyhurst to teach the interdisciplinary course Breaking Down Breaking Bad, a study of the popular crime series. The class is a product of collaboration between the English, Chemistry and Criminal Justice Departments.
Schiff remains a steadfast supporter of Mercyhust’s English Department, explaining that the fanfare should be less about his retirement and more about English.
“The English Department and the Humanities in general are the most important part of a student’s education, because they bring out the humanizing and emotional elements–where student’s think and understand the world and their lives,” Schiff said.