Betty Burton Peck Professor of English
Ouachita Baptist Univ.
Leo Van Scyoc has a distinctive voice, one that any serious teacher would die for. It is immediately recognizable, deep, resonant, and rich. When he was in the classroom, it was his most effective tool. Examining a scene from a Shakespeare play, for example, he would listen to students’ analyses and then say something like, “Well, with those thoughts in mind, let’s go through the scene again. I’ll read aloud, and you follow the text.” He would bring the scene alive with a beautifully nuanced rendering, wringing subtleties and ironies from the dialog that set off the proverbial light bulb in many an undergraduate’s mind as meanings and understandings multiplied. It was not unusual for a student to look up from the book in a moment of insight and be met by the knowing gaze of the “reader,” who could return an appreciative nod while not missing an iamb of Shakespeare’s verse. Clearly, he had committed to memory many sections of Shakespeare’s works and used the book for little more than a prop.
Anyone fortunate enough to have taken his Shakespeare class; his survey of American literature (and, especially, experienced his reading of Whitman!); or even his composition for teachers course, where he undertook convincing an often initially skeptical audience that knowing the intricacies of language and usage was critical to their professional development, applauded when he received, not one, but a number of excellence in teaching awards. Fittingly, he became a charter member of Chancellor Ferritor’s University Teaching Academy as well as its first president. Leo Van Scyoc always modeled excellence.
It was during my senior year, the fall of 1962, when Dr. Jacob Sacks, who headed up the premed program for the University, on a hunch, said, “You know, there’s something very strange about a premed student who takes all these hours of English classes ‘just for fun.’ Before I send you to Little Rock, there is a man in the English Department I want you to talk to. I’m going to call him right now and set up an appointment. His name is Dr. Van Scyoc. Do you know him?” While my answer was “no,” after my meeting with him, I had changed my major to English and applied to the graduate program. I had not been given a hard sell. Rather, he had helped me to recognize where I should be. A marvelous advisor, he never imposed his ideas. He worked to allow the student to discover his own.
I was assigned to be his nonteaching assistant in 1965, a position I would hold until 1976, and, consequently, was able to see him in his many roles in the Department, University, state, and region. Some of the memories I harbor seem almost quaint now. I remember him standing out front of the English tables at arena registration in the Men’s Gymnasium, clipboard in hand, opening and closing sections, listening seriously to student pleas to get into particular sections, and taking notes for a memo to the Registrar on how to improve the process. I remember answering his call for volunteers to meet in Old Main and, later, Kimpel Hall to type the class rosters in duplicate while he, Claude Faulkner and Lyna Lee Montgomery “holed up” to make the assignments for the multi-sectioned courses. He would check on us off and on to see how the rosters were coming, bucking up the volunteers with colorful folk sayings and evoking lots of laughter. He had a great sense of humor. Rosters went into the mailboxes typically at two or three in the morning. Computers do all of that now—and at a considerable loss of fun and community.
I was able to see a lot of his committee work in the Department, College, and University. I often served as a preparer and runner of packets to this group or that. If Leo Van Scyoc was on a committee, it accomplished something. I recall making a delivery to a mathematics professor who exclaimed, “But this committee hasn’t done anything in years.” I intimated that with Leo Van Scyoc as chair, things would likely change. His collaborative activities with the College of Education in teacher training were unusual for the times. His reputation for getting things done was impressive. If memory serves me, his leadership culminated in his presiding over the Faculty Senate.
I witnessed his writing grants to benefit the folklore archives and to conduct summer institutes for public school English teachers. These were major activities. But I was also struck by his willingness to consider what some might deem minor ones, too. I recall his joining a textbook selection committee at a local junior high school and having me join him in conducting a series of workshops for the English faculty in tiny Arkansas or Missouri school districts in need of training and of a boost in morale. If there was sincerity in the request, he found it difficult to say no.
As busy as he was, he was inevitably first to volunteer to teach others’ classes if they were ill or addressing some emergency. And he made time to visit retired faculty. When Mary C. Parler and Vance Randolph were in failing health and apartment bound, he asked me to pack up the Department’s cameras and join him in “interviewing” Mary and Vance. As I tried to keep the camera in focus, Leo sat off camera asking questions which allowed Mary and Vance to reminisce about their collecting folklore in the Ozarks. It was apparent, they were delighted by the opportunity, and I noticed that he was, too, by their very response.
A lot of fine professors helped to shape me academically. I stand in debt to Ben Kimpel, Duncan Eaves, Blair Rouse, Dick Bennett, David Hart, Larry Guinn, Leighton Rudolph, Claude Faulkner, and Leo Van Scyoc. Starting my 32nd year in a department with 63 professors at Texas A&M University, I must admit I owe the most to Leo Van Scyoc. He taught me not to fear hard work if it can lead to good results and to volunteer to shape events rather than sit on the sidelines and see what might happen. I was fortunate to see how a dedicated master accomplished things. I wasn’t aware then that I was in training for my future. But that appears to be the case. Having completed my 14th year as Director of the Undergraduate Program, I have just accepted a letter of appointment for three more. Having garnered teaching and advising awards, and received recognition for collaborating with colleagues in Colleges of Education at local and national levels, what can I say but “Thank you, Leo Van Scyoc”?
Professor of English
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Texas A&M Univ.
My first impression of Leo Van Scyoc was my most vivid. He made it as soon as he walked into the first orientation session for new teaching assistants in the fall of 1981. I thought he was someone from maintenance come to fix the air conditioning. When, a few moments later, he turned out to be the vice chair of the English department, I was stunned. For he certainly didn’t look like the vice chair of the English department. Mind you, I doubt I could have said precisely what a vice chair of an English department looks like. However, my prior experience of professorial attire being limited almost entirely to Brooks Brothers and Oscar Wilde, I just couldn’t see a vice chair of an English department wearing gray Dickies work pants. Of course, about that time, Leo gave the room a gruff, penetrating look, and I instantly decided that gray Dickies work pants were getting no argument from me.
Leo had many items on his agenda for us that week. However, the one I recall most clearly involved grading student papers together. Like many other new teaching assistants, I suspect, I’d fallen victim to the dark forces of CLEP. Thus, I had never taken a freshman English course. Thus, I had escaped the Scotch-inducing phenomenon we now call “peer review.” In college, insofar as the writing of my fellow English majors had ever swum into my ken, it had seemed engaging at best, at worst serviceable. Nothing in my experience, then, had quite prepared me for grading some of Leo’s “sample essays.” I was horrified. I gave them Cs. I was quite right, I soon learned, to be horrified. I was quite dunderheaded, I soon recognized, to give them Cs. In the quarter century since the morning a man in gray Dickies work pants taught me the meaning of quality, I doubt I’ve ever conned a more valuable lesson.
As I look back on that morning, it’s strange to think that, when he stepped into that room, Leo was beginning only the twenty-fifth of his fifty years of service to the University of Arkansas. It’s even stranger to think that I’ve been teaching now as long as he had then. I wish I’d sung my few summers as truly, Leo. Congratulations, and many thanks.
David M. Strain
Chair, Division of Humanities and Fine Arts
Professor of English and French
Leo was reputed to be a big beer drinker, but Jim Whitehead didn’t think so. Leo also claimed he could shoot snooker, but I didn’t believe that either. (I could run a ball down the rail and could hold my own with John Hassel and the other sharks at Roger’s Recreation on Dickson Street.) We decided late one afternoon to put all claims to the test.
A beer-drinking-snooker-tournament was scheduled that spring afternoon after work. Clearly, we figured, we’d finish the contest and appear bright and fresh for supper with our families that evening.
At the front domino table Leo and Jim matched each other beer-for-beer while I slowly fell behind. But that was okay because I knew I had the advantage when we moved to the snooker table. I didn’t. Leo made a series of bravura shots. Jim, of course, played like an offensive tackle with a club in his hands. As he dropped behind in the snooker competition his voice became louder and his Southern accent deeper.
There’s a shot in the games of snooker, billiards and straight pool in which the player keeps one foot on the floor – a mandatory maneuver – then stretches out along the side of the table to take a difficult aim at the cue ball. Leo took this graceful horizontal posture and we waited for his execution. But he fell off on the floor.
We picked him up, dusted him off and heard him tell us he was perfectly all right although his famous Dutch face was a bright shade of red.
It occurred to me that he might’ve been slightly tipsy, so when Jim was soon eliminated from the snooker game, I said, “Jimbo, go get us some coffee.”
“They don’t have coffee here,” he drawled.
“Here’s five dollars.” I told him. “Go next door to the little café.”
He agreed, took the money and departed.
I knew very well there was no little café next door or anywhere near the pool hall, but it gave Jim something to do.
In the meantime I chalked my cue and faced Leo. Okay, he could quote more Shakespeare than I could, but this was my game.
Even so, he was ahead on points when Whitehead came back with three small paper cups of coffee.
“Where’d you find these?” I asked.
“Next door at the little café,” he answered.
We drank the coffee then Leo and Jim resumed the beer contest.
While Leo ran a series of points I sat down in a wastebasket. It took both colleagues to get me out.
To my consternation Leo wrapped up the snooker game in a flurry of shots.
Dropping out of the beer drinking I excused myself. I looked out the front door to see exactly what establishment was next door to Roger’s. It was a small florist shop occupied by a lone young woman. God knows what terror Jim had inflicted there as he demanded coffee. She had obviously brewed some on the hotplate in the rear of the shop and sent him away.
We returned to the domino table. After nine beers I was finished and drifted toward sleep. Leo, red in the face and smiling, was triumphant at snooker and confident in the remaining task. Jim was less sure. With the end clearly in sight, I put my head on the table and closed my eyes.
Later, as Merlee will confirm, Jim brought me home draped over his shoulder.
We always loved and respected Leo. Never more than that afternoon and forever afterward.
Univ. of Arkansas
“3-2-8,” I ciphered as I tapped on a door open just wide enough to be peek-able. Through the crack, all I could see was a filing cabinet stacked with papers and files, and over those, a wall of books. “Yes,” I thought, “Books. This must be the place, but. . . .”
“BAM. BAM. BAM. BAM --” metal pounded on metal, reverberating through the tiny sliver of space, disrupting my expectations.
A friendly -- but disembodied -- “Come in” floated above the filing cabinet, and I nudged the door a bit, looking upward into the confluence of dissonance and direction. There, poised in midair, I saw a silver wrench -- held by a handy man dressed in dark slacks and a white short-sleeved shirt. He stood on yet another filing cabinet while stretching toward an apparently errant ceiling air conditioning unit.
“I’m looking for Dr. Van Scyoc?” I said -- for the first time of the many times.
If you are reading these words, you most likely recognize the “handy man” to be the deus ex machina of the English Department. We have all been the beneficiaries of the wrench or the hammer or the bizarre assortment of tiny screw drivers, or rather, of what we know that Leo Van Scyoc does with them.
And in his classroom, the observation was similar. As undergraduates, we found that students learn best when their professor actually respects them. Dr. Van Scyoc unerringly responded to seemingly uninformed or ridiculous questions with kindness and direction -- the tools of his trade. And, when he recited from Henry IV, well -- the non-majors sitting next to us finally understood why “anyone would ever want to be an English major.” On such stuff are future English teachers made.
Those of us who continued into graduate school under his direction learned in our first week of boot camp on whom to depend as we began our teaching and graduate careers. I doubt that any of us realized at the time that we would never stop once we started this business of teaching and learning. But Leo knew, and he taught us practical techniques for maintaining integrity on either side of the lectern, which ones to adopt and when to adapt -- in order to earn the trust of our students and peers by being both responsible and fair.
At just the right moment in our first semester as teaching assistants, he shared the legendary account of his insistence on using proper grammatical usage in the midst of a hay bailing crew. “To whom shall I give this pitchfork?” he recounted as we laughed along with him. And some of us began to laugh at ourselves, too, as we recognized that no matter how much we might think we know, if others feel disrespected by how we reveal our knowledge, they can’t learn from us.
So today, when students tap on our doors, we may not necessarily think about our first meeting with Dr. Van Scyoc, but we do hope that they see that same independent spirit and unaffected assuredness that never failed to greet us whenever we entered KH328. Our visitors may be surprised to find that not all English professors just collect books and stacks of files and that the best are practical dreamers who will inspire with the words to live by and who are masters in the sharing of tools to do so.
Karen (Clark) Madison
UA ’89, ’92, ‘96
Though I never had the pleasure of having Dr. Van Scyoc as a professor, I have carried a particularly vivid memory of him throughout the twenty-four years since I first arrived in Fayetteville to be introduced to the life of the TA. In that August of 1983, Dr. Van Scyoc had the charge of us all, and it was his responsibility to see us through a week of orientation and to make sure that we inflicted no lasting damage on any freshmen entrusted to our care.
To a lad of twenty-two fresh from college, Dr. Van Scyoc was a pretty forbidding fellow, and I always crept fairly quietly in his presence throughout my three years in Fayetteville. But I was never more nervous with Dr. Van Scyoc than the day when I submitted for his review, with considerable fear and trembling, my first set of graded essays, the only set I believe he ever asked to see from me. I had edited each page with the greatest of care and filled the margins with the most voluminous of comments, but I still had not the faintest clue how it all might appear to my dread supervisor.
As I was checking my mail in the departmental mail room a few days later, Dr. Van Scyoc suddenly materialized behind me with my graded essays in hand. With no introduction, he handed the set back to me with a comment that has haunted me ever since: “This is all quite wonderful, Mr. Curlin; but you really do not have time for this.” He meant only to remind me, at the beginning of my graduate career, that my focus should be on my scholarship, that I should never let what I did for my students consume entirely time that I should be devoting to my studies, particularly wise and appreciated counsel that I have never been able to follow throughout the almost quarter century since.
Throughout the rest of my time in Fayetteville, when I continued to devote too much time to my teaching and felt that I was a graduate student only in my leisure, throughout my doctoral studies in Ann Arbor, where such habits so delayed my studies that I began my career ABD and was unable to return to Ann Arbor to my defend my dissertation until two years later, throughout my years before and after tenure, as I have continually failed to achieve that magical balance between one’s scholarship and anything one might do for a host of students, I have continually heard Dr. Van Scyoc muttering gruffly in my ear, “This is all quite wonderful, Mr. Curlin, but. ...” If Saint Peter allows him occasional charge of the pearly gates, I can easily imagine with what words he will welcome me to Heaven.
Jay R. Curlin
Kathryn Maddox Professor of English
Ouachita Baptist University
Dr. Van Scyoc wore blue or gray twill like a maintenance man and his hands were often stained with blue mimeograph ink from helping the grad assistants run the heavily taxed machine, which often broke down in a halo of mineral spirit fumes off in the corner office of what came to be known as Kimpel Hall. He was instrumental in encouraging me to finish a degree I came close to leaving incomplete.
I remember an earnest, serious man who loved Shakespeare so much he read to us aloud, basso profondo. He cared about our teaching and went to bat for us for any challenges we had in teaching. He taught us moderation and even kindness. Once, a young man baling hay in Kansas, Dr. Van Scyoc, the first in his family to go to college, corrected the grammar of one of his family members. This was a mistake, he said, to put on airs and make someone feel bad. I think it captures the essence of Leo: a man scholarly and kind.
I’ve had the good fortune of working closely with Leo Van Scyoc for the last sixteen years. Leo, of course, was the director of the composition program when I entered the English Department in 1991, and before I became director we co-directed the program from 1994 to 2000. One of the most enjoyable jobs we did together was team-teaching the annual fall orientation for new teaching assistants—team-teaching, that is, what the TA’s call “boot camp.”
Every year at boot camp, Leo would tell the same stories (with some minor changes), and some of these stories have risen to the level of communal knowledge, or departmental lore. My favorite story is the one he would always tell to illustrate what he calls “the rhetorical base of grammar.”
It was 1951, according to the story, and Leo was working as a hired hand on a farm in Kansas while on summer vacation from teaching English at the local high school. He and the other hands were “putting up” hay for the winter, and this particular year was especially good: the hay was high and thick. I think Leo used to say it was alfalfa, but the type of hay was one of those facts that seemed to change from year to year.
At any rate, as the story goes, the men had finished cutting and raking the hay, and it was still in rows on the ground when a storm suddenly blew in—”and not just any storm, mind you,” Leo would add, “but a real gully washer.” The rain had come down in sheets for three days. (Or was it five?)
“Well,” Leo said at this point in the story when he told it in the fall of 2006, the last year he participated in boot camp, “the hay, of course, was ruined.” And now the hands had to heave the spoiled hay onto hay racks with pitch forks and haul it off, because the water-logged stuff couldn’t be bailed and would kill the new grass growing underneath it. “It was hard work!” he exclaimed, asking, “Does anybody here know what a hay rack is?” “It’s a flat-bed trailer with rails on the sides pulled by a tractor,” he told the TA’s. “And it was hard work!” he exclaimed again, this time wiping invisible sweat from his brow.
The labor of pitching the heavy hay onto the racks was so intense, in fact, that the workers had to take regular breaks, and during one of these breaks Leo absentmindedly handed his pitchfork to another man before sitting down to rest. Several minutes later, when the men started to return to their work, Leo, standing up and looking around him, realized that he couldn’t find his pitchfork—and he bellowed, loudly enough for all the men scattered around the field to hear, “TO WHOM DID I GIVE MY PITCHFORK?”
Pausing just long enough for the new TA’s to start laughing, Leo then concluded the story by saying that the farm workers had laughed, too—and that they had called him, as he said (because Leo never used profanity), “a blankety-blank college boy.” With the stage properly set by his story, Leo then launched into his lecture on “the rhetorical base of grammar,” explaining how, in this rhetorical situation, the use of standard English had not achieved the desired effect on his audience.
Leo would often tell instructive stories with this type of self-effacing humor when he was working with inexperienced teachers, and I, too, now tell such stories during boot camp. But Leo could also be stern with the new TA’s. If you don’t believe me, ask me sometime to tell you the story about the TA’s who furnished their new office with a full-sized pool table.
Professor Patrick Slattery
Director of Composition
Univ. of Arkansas
I first met Leo when he came on a visit considering grad school. We all remembered him, so when he returned after finishing his work at Kansas and applied, we were glad to have him. From the beginning, Leo was a hard-worker, willing to do whatever needed to be done. After awhile, I noticed that our department was running much more smoothly than other departments on campus. There was a bit of a boom in education after World War II. The campus grew quickly; it went from something like 1,800 in my days as an undergrad to over 4,000. And generally, the administration hadn’t kept up, so having someone like Leo, who let himself be imposed upon, was invaluable. Leo was unflappable. He also had physical endurance, working from 7:30 or 7:45 in the morning until 5:00 in the afternoon every day. Often in those days, to get things done, we also worked at night and scheduled Master’s defenses on Saturdays. So, on top of his regular, rigorous work week, he could be found in the department on nights and weekends, too.
But, it was more than his dedication and presence. For instance, the Department Chair when Leo was hired was Howard Carter. For years, Carter taught the Shakespeare course, a quite coveted class among English courses to get to teach. When he retired, it was offered to Leo who took it gladly and ran with it. He did a marvelous job. It was not only a popular course under Leo, but he brought an exuberance to the class. He never lost his enthusiasm for teaching. So, while Leo, because of his willingness and dedication, handled many administrative duties from early on, his first love was of everyone’s education. For many years he traveled all around the state of Arkansas giving all manner of talks, many to the public schools, on subject from grammar to Shakespeare. All three of my children heard him and remember his love for the work. What he did for public relations for the department as far as building relationships and recruiting good students, essential at that time, can never be measured.
I shouldn’t neglect to note Leo’s manner –the fact that I never heard him say an unkind word about anybody; he suffered fools gladly and with a calm, quiet voice, sometimes repeating instructions without obvious irritation. Leo was so generous with everyone, but especially with students; he operated under the premise that if you offered students a little slack, you could be a lot of help to them. And he has been, for fifty years. He is an admirable man and a good friend.
E. Leighton Rudolph
Professor of English, Emeritus
Univ. of Arkansas
The new fall 1959 class of teaching assistants and NDEA fellows, who were enrolled in Dr. Claude Faulkner’s preparatory course for the teaching of freshman composition, settled in to learn what Writing Good Sentences and Writing Good Prose were all about. Never had any of us seen so many diagram boxes and grammatical formulae contained between two covers, unless it had been a chemistry or physics text.
Moreover, none of us could help but notice in the room during our orientation in Old Main, a smiling, obviously enthusiastic and energetic young professor by the improbable name of “Dr. Leo Van Scyoc” –yes, pronounced “Van Sike”! he sat at the side of the room, as I recall, and Dr. Faulkner often glanced Leo’s way during the course of his remarks, frequently adding that Dr. Van Scyoc would be helping us with “this or that” as we began to learn the routines and expectations of being teaching fellows in the Department of English. Indeed, Dr. Van Scyoc did just that: he was ever present and available to us when we had questions or needed help understanding some of the expectations and routines of the department, or even in penetrating some of the formulaic boxes and sentences of Dr. Faulkner’s compositional methodology.
Leo, if I may now switch to a first-name basis, exuded seemingly endless energy, coupled with highly-charged enthusiasm for what he, and the department as a whole, was focusing on doing at that time. I still remember his fast-paced walk or near trot (some of the teaching fellows referred to it as a “gallop”) from his office on the north tower on the third floor of Old Main to the main English office located centrally on that floor. He moved so quickly and appeared so super-charged with energy as he hustled back and forth that we teaching fellows jokingly, yet admiringly, referred to him as “Leapin’ Leo.” He could out-pace us younger people all!
He was always a kind and generous helpmeet. When we needed someone on the faculty to talk with and ask questions of, Leo was always present and willing to take the time to help us out. And he did so with a welcoming smile and a word of encouragement. When four of us NDEA fellows needed a readings course in Renaissance Drama, although there was no organized class in that field during the semester when it would fit our schedules, Leo stepped in – albeit Americanist scholar that he was at heart – and offered us a readings course, meeting with us weekly for discussions of the plays. We got our needed credit, learned a lot, and went merrily on our ways towards completing our doctoral course work, thanks to his generosity.
In my third or fourth year in the department, Leo asked me if I would consider serving as his special assistant. After some thought (because I wondered in part if I could match his pace) I agreed to do so, and I learned a great deal under his tutelage about the nuts and bolts, wheels and pulleys, of the way a large English department operates. The experience of working with him proved invaluable and enriching for me. What I learned from Leo, and Claude Faulkner too, that year about the operation of a large academic department, undoubtedly helped me immensely later on in my profession as I myself eventually chaired a large English Department, then assumed higher administrative positions. Leo’s lessons were all remembered and, I hope, well heeded on my part.
Often I think of the comprehensive learning and training that I was fortunate enough to receive at the U of A from faculty members like Leo Van Scyoc who went out of their way to help us fledgling scholars prepare ourselves for entering the profession.
David B. Kesterson
Professor of English, and past Provost
Univ. of North Texas
The summer of 1968 was a wonderful time to arrive in Fayetteville as a graduate student. Some of the sweetest memories of my life are caught up in my eight years there. I so hated the thought of leaving that I never turned my dissertation in until Ben Kimpel simply called me one day and said, “I’ve arranged an interview for you next week at a school in Louisiana. Here’s the info…Be there.” What made me want to stay in Fayetteville, what made me never want to leave, was a handful of unforgettable faculty members I came to love, both as mentors and close friends. And Leo Van Scyoc was one of the most unforgettable and most wonderful of them.
I first met him in the old English office on the third floor of Old Main. Who could forget that great smile and laugh, the perpetually disheveled black tie and white short-sleeve shirt, and the rush he always seemed to be in? He was always in a rush because he really did do more for the department than anyone else. In addition to his teaching and departmental duties, he was the departmental Mr. Fix-It when it came to doors, desks, jammed Xerox paper, you name it. But he always had time to stop and talk –and not just about Shakespeare, on which he could be thrilling, or a gummed up lock, but on the most amazing of other topics as well. For example, I can still recall his talking to me once about coprolite, fossilized dinosaur feces, which he had examples of and knew a great deal about. And, of course, I remember how he laughed about it. I also once saw tears in his eyes when the mother of another faculty member died. All of that is Leo Van Scyoc –a true Shakespearian, “express and admirable,” with the full scope of humanity within him.
Congratulations, Leo, from both Carol and me for your 50 years of service to the department. We love you.
Univ. of Arkansas
Where to start talking about Leo’s contributions to the English Department, or better said, where to stop? Sure, he’s taught Shakespeare and Composition and American Literature and more, and he’s advised literally thousands of students and been a friend in need to nearly as many, and he’s kept the administrative wheels turning so smoothly for so long that “Leo Would Know” has become a mantra around Kimpel and across the campus. But our most vivid memories of Leo are the ones that remind us how important he’s been in shaping the character of the department. His work ethic, for instance: try as we might we couldn’t beat him to the office in the morning, and we could rarely outlast him in the evening. Or his willingness to do anything, anytime, to keep things running. How many times did he pull out his tools to fix the mimeograph machine or oil a sticky lock? Who else would send the office staff home the afternoon before Christmas and sit down to call everyone still holding a grade roster? Or his ability to make Kimpel’s linoleum and cinder block seem cozy, somehow – making ice cream on the office balcony in the summer, for instance, or letting that crazy vine grow up his office wall for years until Physical Plant made him pull it down. (We should have taken it to the Biology Department for analysis, since only a new and rare species could survive in all that smoke!) Or his never-failing kindness toward the office staff, encouraging them to take courses and finish a degree, or to forget about some forgettable task and go home to a sick child, or quietly thanking them for a job well done. He’s made the department a better place than it might have been, and made us better people for knowing him.
Professor of English
Assistant Dean for Admin.
I write in tribute to Leo:
• a great teacher with passion for what he taught and care and concern for all students-- including new faculty members and new administrators who may differ from undergraduates most in not knowing how much there is left to learn;
• a worker always to make the English Department in particular and the University in general a better place for its students and faculty members and staff to learn and do their work;
• the designer of a management system for registration which provided that every new freshman who needed an English course was enrolled in the course for which the student was prepared;
• the colleague to whom those from registrars and directors of admissions to deans and chairs could ask for help and be assured of getting it. To no person on campus would anyone more confidently have sent a troubled student , say, or a prospective student with parents in tow or a colleague working on a new program. It is not that Leo could solve all problems. It is that he treated us all so well while he tried and found a way if there was one.
Leo Van Scyoc knew the University should be student-centered decades before we said so in our Vision statement, and if every one of us treated students as he always did, the University of Arkansas would find it no challenge to retain and graduate all its students.
Nancy Ellen Talburt
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs
Professor of English
Univ. of Arkansas