Giving Impact

Every year, each of the English majors recognized at the Banquet and Awards Ceremony in May receives fellowships and scholarships funded entirely by the alumni of the Department. There are dozens of these funds, and they both support current students and demonstrate the devotion and interest English alums maintain in the department.

Gift funds help us recruit some of the best applicants to our graduate programs in English language and literature. We compete with the best schools in the country — private and public — for these students. With funds to support Project Assistantships, bring recruits to campus, and raise the level of UW's support closer to that of our competitors, our graduate program is one of the strongest in the country. That pays dividends for undergraduate learning, too, when these same graduate students become teaching assistants and instructors.

Donors also help us recruit and retain faculty members. One special fund supports the Junior Faculty Research Semester Program, which provides leave time to help assistant professors complete the pioneering research that will help them earn tenure. Such leave is automatic at many of the private schools and top-ranked public universities. Similarly, when we can offer a three-year professorship to a faculty member that supports his or her research and teaching, we help that professor rebuff inducements from other schools.

Gifts also provide support for travel to research libraries and conferences, for both faculty and students. These are invaluable opportunities to investigate original texts, or to learn about work that others are doing, and to share in cutting-edge scholarly conversations. In the past, students have used gifts funds to do original research at Yale's Beinecke Rare Book Library, as well as other archives.

Gift support has become indispensable to providing our top-notch programs in English language and literature. We thank all who have contributed. The cumulative giving of modest donations from many alumni makes a huge difference. No gift is too small.

Donor Spotlight

Mary Brabyn Wackman

Each year, the English Department presents several of our exceptional undergraduate students with Mary Brabyn Wackman Scholarships at our annual English Department Awards Banquet. The scholarships are worth $1,250 each and were established by Charline M. Wackman in 1961 to honor her mother, Mary, a noted poet and artist from Oregon, Wisconsin. 

Mary Brabyn Wackman authored three volumes of poetry, Lilacs by the Roadside, Primroses on the Hedges, and Hollyhocks are Sentinels. Many of her poems appeared in The Rambler, a Sunday column written for the Wisconsin State Journal.

She was born in Cornwall, England, and came to the United States when she  was six with her widowed mother, two brothers, and a sister and made her home with relatives near Dayton, Wisconsin. When she married in 1893, Mrs. Wackman moved to Oregon, Wisconsin, where she was a member of the Madison Woman's Club and an active participant in its literary programs. She was also a member of the Dickens Fellowship of the Madison Civic Theater. She gave frequent talks and poetry readings, and, an avid painter, she won a number of prizes for her art. She was a noted traveler, touring throughout Europe and the United States. She died in 1946. 

Experiencing writer's block on a trip to the English seashore, she penned this poem, which was reprinted in the Wisconsin State Journal in March, 1838:

When the hilltop tells no story,
And the ocean no song in its roll,
And no longing I find for "Old Glory,"
Then I feel frozen blood in my soul.

When the hedge speaks in silence only,
With no whisper in its tallest tree,
And the winds moan lonely, lonely,
Something's clogging the heart-o-me.

When my muse has entirely deserted,
And even England can't force its return,
Then my being is much disconcerted,
And with shame my heart strings burn.

But a sea gull just flew past my window,
His language I don't really know.
It might be Greek or Hindu,
But I'm sure he said, "Cheerio."

The Mary Brabyn Wackman scholarship is just one example of how a donor's generosity enables the English Department to honor and celebrate its exceptional undergraduate students. We thank Charline M. Wackman and the Wackman family and join in honoring Mary Brabyn Wackman.

To help support a prize or scholarship, please contact the Chair of the English Department.