Vol. 20, No. 3
Oct. 5, 2000
The first faculty member to receive the Medal of Distinction in 1985, the first recipient of the Excellence in Teaching Award in 1954 (and again in 1972) and the first woman to be promoted to full professor in the English department, Anna Janney DeArmond, professor emeritus of English, who also was awarded an honorary doctor of humane letters degree by the University in 1993, will receive yet another honor this fall when she is awarded the Joseph P. del Tufo Award for Distinguished Service to the Humanities by the Delaware Humanities Forum.?
DeArmond was nominated by her former student Richard Kiger, AS '72, the Registrar of Wills in Wilmington and a member of the Delaware Humanities Forum board.
He wrote "Dr. DeArmond has taught English to generations of University of Delaware students. She has done so with a dedication to her subject and an ability to communicate her love of the humanities..." pointing out that she developed innovative courses on women in fiction, Australian literature and American humorists.
She also taught a course on the English Bible as Literature "the single best course I took in four years of college," Kiger wroteand became a Biblical scholar.
DeArmond also was among the first to teach a women's studies course and a founding member of Phi Beta Kappa at UD.
Looking back on a teaching career of more than six decades, DeArmond recalled she did not start out to be a teacher. "My parents told me I didn't have the temperament, but graduate school set me on the path, and I have enjoyed it immensely and have had probably the longest teaching career in the history of the University," she said.
She came to the Women's College in 1935, after graduating from Swarthmore College, receiving her master's degree from Columbia University and attending Bryn Mawr College Graduate School (later getting her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania). Although she retired officially in 1975, she continued teaching at UD for several years and now teaches at UD's Academy of Lifelong Learning.
She was interviewed for the job at the Women's College by Dean Winifred Robinson and Dr. Owen Sypherd, then chairperson of the English department and later president of the University. "I don't remember much about interview except that the dean said I would find the students less sophisticated than those at Bryn Mawr," De Armond recalled.
"However, the women in the college were good students, and those being Depression days, I was impressed that some of them had jobs and were putting themselves through school.
"At that time, in order to teach at the Women's College, a woman had to be single and live in the dormitories with the students, also eating with them in the dining room, but at a faculty table. You got to know your colleagues and your students well. However, although the faculty called each other by their first names, no one ever addressed the dean as anything but Miss Robinson.
"Miss Robinson retired and was replaced by Majorie Golder, a very approachable person, whom I admired tremendously and who saw us through the war years," DeArmond said.
World War II brought other changesinstead of only women, DeArmond was teaching men students, and, by then, was teaching more advanced classes and starting the program in American literature. The Women's College closed in 1945, Dean Golder departed, and women faculty no longer lived on campus.
"Women did have fewer opportunities in the past," DeArmond said. "Although I was the first woman promoted to full professor, it took many years. However, my department was always supportive, and there were many people along the way who gave me a 'leg up.'"
In addition to teaching at Delaware, DeArmond has served as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Munich in 1956-57, a visiting lecturer at the University of Sheffield in England, and a visiting professor at the University of New England in Australia and Qingdao Ocean University in China and at other colleges in the United States.
DeArmond is still as enthusiastic about teaching as she was when she began. "To teach, you have to like people. My students were my friends, and I am still in touch with many of them. For me, advising and teaching are inseparable. I had office hours, and the door was open for students to discuss any problems they might be having."
Currently, DeArmond, who lives at Cokesbury Village in Hockessin, said she is enjoying the Academy of Lifelong Learning immensely. She is teaching a course, "Old Friends Revisited," with students rereading and discussing as adults the classics they read in their youth, such as Alice in Wonderland.
The Delaware Humanities Forum's del Tufo award will be presented at a dinner and award ceremony honoring DeArmond, beginning at 5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 20, at the First USA Riverfront Arts Center, 800 South Madison St., Wilmington. The cost is $40. To make a reservation, call the forum at 657-0650 or (800) 752-2060 by Oct. 9.
The dinner and award ceremony will be followed by the Delaware Humanities Forum's annual, free, public lecture at 7:30 p.m. This year, David Halberstam, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Best and the Brightest and The Powers That Be, will speak on "The Culture of Celebrity: An Examination of What is Heroic and Authentic in America."