Vol. 19, No. 8Oct. 21, 1999

Faculty author also serves UD community as chaplain

John Brockmann, English, maintains a triple career-he teaches technical and business writing, as well as biblical and classical literature, is an ordained Episcopal priest, serving as campus chaplain and priest associate at St. Thomas Church in Newark, and is the author of several books on historical technology and technical writing.

A fellow of the Society for Technical Communication, Brockmann served as an international consultant in computer-user documentation and has traveled worldwide. Now, since his calling to the priesthood, he said, his focus is on teaching, his ministry in the campus and local community and writing.

Brockman said he is looking forward to his work with UD students in his capacity as chaplain. "We are exploring a range of liturgies and studying St. Francis and the simple, unencumbered life. Next spring, during Holy Week, we are planning a bike pilgrimage beginning at Old St. Anne's one of the oldest Episcopal churches in Delaware, and ending up at Old Bohemia, one of the oldest Roman Catholic churches in the original 13 colonies.

"The group also is involved in outreach activities with Emmaus House and is planning a big cookie bake-off with other campus religious groups for the people the house serves. The students also interact with high school students in the area.

"In the past, Episcopal students participated in Habitat for Humanity projects in Eagle Butte Reservation in South Dakota, and others traveled to South Africa to volunteer in the homesteads, and I hope that this continues," he said.

A member of the Episcopal Third Order of the Society of St. Francis, Brockmann read for holy orders, becoming ordained in 1997. His wife Sarah, is a graduate of Harvard Divinity School and is looking forward to her ordination.

Until this fall, Brockmann served as a volunteer priest in for the Church Without Walls in Bear. "We were the first Episcopal mission church in Delaware in 50 years and were located in an area that is not served by many denominations. The congregation was small without a building and met in the Bear/ Glasgow Boys & Girls Club on Sunday mornings. Everything for the service, including the organ, could be packed in the trunks of our cars or in a closet. I donated my time, and much of our church budget went back to the community, and church members volunteered for programs in Brookmont Farms," he said.

Brockmann's other vocation is writing. In addition to books on technical writing, he is the author of From Millwrights to Shipwrights to the Twenty-First Century, a historical view of technical communication in the United States from the mid-19th century until the present.

His current book is Exploding Steamboats: Senate Debates and Technical Debates, an exploration of a little-known facet of U.S. history. Explosions were common on steamboats as they lacked gauges, Brockmann pointed out. Mark Twain survived an explosion, but his brother was killed in one. Songs, such as "How the Little Brothers Perished" and "Steamboat Bill," were in vogue during the last century.

Bills were introduced to regulate the boats but were rendered ineffective because the most important measures were deleted and the causes for the explosions were not addressed.

The research was there, the legislation was there, but the timing was wrong, Brockman said. It wasn't until 1865 when the Sultana exploded and 1,500 people perished, many of them returning Union POWs, that safety measures were strengthened. Brockmann currently is talking to publishers and film producers who are interested in the book.

A graduate of Georgetown University, Brockmann received a master's degree in English from the University of Chicago and a doctorate with an emphasis in technical writing from the University of Michigan.

-Sue Moncure