Professor of English Eileen Gregory Named 2018 Piper Professor
Date published: Thursday, May 10
The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation named the University of Dallas’ own Eileen Gregory,
Ph.D., professor of English, as one of this year’s Piper Professors. The award, which
honors 10 professors annually in Texas colleges and universities for their outstanding
achievement in the teaching profession, is widely regarded as the most prestigious
award of its kind in the state and is given alongside an honorarium.
“As it is, when I teach I do so in an educational climate that honors teaching above
all things, and I work among you all who love your work fiercely, who see the engagement
with students as a privilege,” said Gregory, addressing her fellow University of Dallas
faculty members regarding her recent award at an afternoon reception on Friday, May
“Thanks to all of you who have made this award possible, those on the nominating committee,
those here who wrote supporting letters,” she continued. “Thanks especially to John
Norris, who orchestrated the whole strenuous process of the application. And thanks
to all of you, my colleagues and friends, for being here today.”
Gregory graduated from the University of Dallas magna cum laude with a bachelor's
degree in English in 1968. She received her doctorate in English from the University
of South Carolina, after which she returned to Irving, where she has continued to
devote her work and service to her alma mater and its students as a university faculty
Professor of English Scott Crider first submitted Gregory’s nomination to the University
of Dallas’ Piper Award Nomination Committee for consideration. “Eileen’s scholarship
is of the highest order … She is a tireless servant of UD,” he wrote. “Personally,
I find her an inspiration, a model of the innovative traditionalism some of us believe
defines our university and a worthy heir to her teacher Louise Cowan — an earlier
Piper recipient — not because she merely followed Louise, but because she took what
Louise taught her and made it her own, something new.”
Gregory has published numerous books and articles on lyric and contemporary poetry,
most notably H.D. and Hellenism, a groundbreaking book on the modern American poet Hilda Doolittle (H.D.), in 1997
with Cambridge University Press. In her more-than-30-year tenure at the university,
she has served as chair of the English Department on several occasions, as secretary
and chair of the Faculty Senate and as the faculty adviser of Ramify, a literary journal
of the Braniff Graduate School.
Reflecting on her work as a teacher, Gregory gave thanks to her fellow faculty and
colleagues for their nominations and support. She recalled a poem that she fell in
love with as an undergraduate by Richard Wilbur, titled “The Juggler”:
A ball will bounce, but less and less. It’s not
A light-hearted thing, resents its own resilience.
Falling is what it loves, and the earth falls
So in our hearts from brilliance, settles and is forgot.
It takes a juggler with five red balls
To shake our gravity up.
“The teacher is like that juggler: and her work is contra naturam, resisting the force of gravity,” said Gregory. “That’s what our teaching, and all
our talk about the reflective life, boils down to — efforts to keep brilliance in
our hearts, to remember the lightness that is native to our spirit.”
Ten faculty members in the state of Texas are honored each year as Piper Professors.
The University of Dallas has a lengthy history with the award — faculty winners include
Sally Hicks, professor of physics and interim dean of Constantin College; Scott Churchill,
professor of psychology; Louise Cowan, the late university professor; Cherie Clodfelter,
professor emerita of education; Frank Doe, associate professor of biology; Rich Olenick,
professor of physics; Judy Kelly, professor emerita of drama; and Sister Clodovia
Lockett, emerita biology professor.
The Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation was organized in 1950, as a nonprofit, charitable
corporation in Texas. The foundation was formed with the intent to support “charitable,
scientific, or educational undertakings” by contributing or providing financial assistance
toward worthy educators and students.
Picture (L to R): Judy Kelly, professor emerita of drama, Rich Olenick, professor of physics, Sally Hicks, professor of physics and interim dean of Constantin College, and Eileen Gregory, professor of English.