HATTIESBURG - A veteran
member of The University of Southern Mississippi faculty has been
chosen for one of the university's most prestigious awards. English
professor Dr. Maureen Ryan, who came to Southern Miss in 1983, is
the recipient of the Charles W. Moorman Distinguished Alumni Professor
in the Humanities.
The endowment, named for the late Southern Miss English
professor and vice president emeritus of academic affairs, provides
as much as $30,000 over two years for research projects to selected
professors from among the university's humanities departments, including
history, English, foreign languages and philosophy. Each recipient
is appointed for a two-year term.
Ryan will use some of the funding to complete work
on a book of cultural criticism of the Vietnam War era titled "Bringing
the War Home: The Home Front and the Aftermath in American Narratives
of the Vietnam War." The endowment will also help pay for travel,
equipment and graduate student assistants.
"I'm pleased and honored to receive the Moorman
Professorship," said Ryan, who has also served as dean of the
Southern Miss Honors College, among other administrative duties
at the university. "I always tried to maintain my scholarly
work and at the same time work as a full-time administrator, but
until now I've never had sustained time to devote to my research.
I'm excited now, with the help of this endowment, to be able to
pull my writing about the Vietnam War and add to it to make it a
book length manuscript."
Ryan, who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, said that
at the time she was aware that the Vietnam War was a profoundly
controversial component of American society. "Looking back
now, it's one of the most important cultural, social and political
events of the past 30 to 40 years," she said.
The Moorman Professorship is supported by an endowment
that originated with a Challenge Grant awarded to the Southern Miss
Foundation in 1988 by the Phil Hardin Foundation of Meridian. A
major contributor of matching funds for the challenge was the Southern
Miss Alumni Association.
"Dr. Ryan has established herself over the past
decade or so as one of the leading academic authorities on the subject
of Vietnam literature," said Dr. David Wheeler, chair of the
Southern Miss Department of English. "And 'Vietnam literature'
for Maureen is not just war stories; it's also the accounts of nurses,
of protestors, of loved ones in the United States, of those who
suffered and who suffered loss as a result of the war. For Americans
of Maureen's and my generation, Vietnam resonates with multiple
meanings as a life-defining event."
Ryan, who received her undergraduate degree from Penn
State University and master's and doctorate from Temple University,
has also served as director of undergraduate and graduate studies
for the Southern Miss Department of English; as assistant dean of
the former Southern Miss College of Liberal Arts, now the College
of Arts and Letters; and as associate provost.
Her publications include "Innocence and Estrangement
in the Fiction of Jean Stafford" (Louisiana State University
Press, 1987); articles on modern and contemporary American women
writers, including Marilynne Robinson, Lillian Hellman, and Bobbie
Ann Mason; and articles on American women writers and Vietnam, the
Vietnam novels of Robert Olen Butler, aftermath novels by Vietnam
veterans, Vietnam POW wives in American Literature, Vietnamese refugees
in southern fiction, and the Vietnam antiwar movement in contemporary
Lauren McKee of Waynesboro, a graduate student in
English at Southern Miss, praised Ryan's knowledge of the Vietnam
War and the literature associated with it, as well as her passion
for the subject.
"She's excited about what she teaches,"
McKee said. "It's interesting to her, and she shares that enthusiasm
with her students."