English Professor Lee Upton to celebrate retirement


Upton’s favorite memory from the college was the Write-a-thon, which was a session of intensive writing for students. (Photo courtesy of Poetry Foundation)

By Onab Falak, Contributing Writer

Professor Lee Upton retired from her position as an English professor and writer-in-residence at the college two years ago, at the height of the pandemic. She will now be celebrated by the department and the college as a whole on May 5 at 4 p.m. in the Pfenning Alumni Center’s Wilson Room.

“It’s wonderfully generous of the English Department to go to such trouble to make a celebration happen this spring—one where we can all gather together  again. At the celebration I have many people to thank for making my time at Lafayette fulfilling.” Professor Upton said.

At her time at the college, Upton served on the Promotion, Tenure, and Review Committee and as a member of the Faculty Academic Policy Committee. She also organized creative writing and poetry reading events and competitions on campus. Upton taught courses on topics including creative writing, modern and contemporary poetry and humor writing, as well as honors theses and independent studies in poetry, short fiction, literary criticism, the novella, playwriting, the young adult novel and creative nonfiction.

She also writes in multiple genres: poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction and literary criticism.

“When teaching, I hoped to create opportunities for students to experience the excitement of discovery and the disruptive energy that engaged writing makes possible,” Upton said.

One of her favorite memories from working at Lafayette was the Write-a-Thon, which is a session of intensive writing hosted primarily through the English Department and the College Writing Program. She recalled a student she met that day who smiled and told her that the session made her enjoy writing for the first time in her life.

Upton highlighted other memories that made her time at Lafayette worthwhile.

“I often witnessed students making all of us roar with happy laughter in class, not only in Humor Writing but in many classes in which students surprised all of us by their boldness,” Upton said. “It’s been especially gratifying to see students go on after  graduating to create enriching lives in which they continue to experiment as writers with passion and daring.”

Upton has also collaborated with various artists at Lafayette including Art Professors Ed Kerns and Jim Toia, Art Professor Emeritus Curlee Holton, local artist Berrisford Boothe ’83, Music Professor Kirk O’Riordan and fellow English Professor Carrie Rohman. Currently, Upton and Toia are working together on a new project for an installation.

Upton does not plan to stop writing anytime soon. Her fifteenth book, which is a collection of poetry entitled, “THE DAY EVERY DAY IS,” received the 2021 Saturnalia Prize and will be forthcoming in 2023 from Saturnalia publishing.

“Since 2020, when I retired, I’ve been a full-time writer, working on multiple projects: novel manuscripts, my third collection of short stories, my seventh collection of poetry, and several new essays and short pieces,” Upton said.