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Released January 07, 2005

By David Tisdale

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 American literature.

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."


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April 1, 2005 11:10 AM