[Milton-L] Ken Hiltner remembers Diane McColley / Re: Very sad news

David Urban dvu2 at calvin.edu
Thu Jan 18 14:17:41 EST 2018

Dear All,

Ken Hiltner sent the following to me so that I could forward it to the Milton-L list.  I humbly ask that you take a couple of minutes to read his beautiful tribute to Diane and how she changed his life.   If you'd like to contact Ken, please note that he includes his email address at the end.




It is difficult to express how saddened I am to hear of Diane’s passing.
As David rightly notes, Diane taught at the Rutgers Camden, NJ campus, which does not offer a Ph.D. They do, however, have an M.A. program with evening classes for continuing students, which is how I met Diane.
Before we met, it was altogether unlikely that I would come to write Milton and Ecology (or anything else, for that matter). I made my living as an artisan, a furniture maker, and had no ambition of ever writing anything. Having learned my trade from my father, I spent the whole of my twenties and thirties making all sorts of furniture, cabinets, and fine woodwork. As this was the only life I had ever known, all indications were that it would continue on just as it had for many years. That was before I met Diane.
I was in my early forties taking graduate classes at night when we met. I was so inspired by her and so intrigued by her suggestion that Milton could be approached ecocritically that I resolved to write an M.A. thesis on Milton and ecology.  The thesis was supposed to be 30 pages long. A year later, which even today is still a blur as I was also working full-time as a furniture maker, I had written 300. On reading the final draft, Diane suggested that I submit it for publication. Although I feared that this would be a complete waste of time, I sent off the manuscript for consideration - largely to placate her. To my great surprise and even greater delight, Cambridge UP was interested in publishing it. Diane then suggested that I give serious thought to entering a Ph.D. program, which I did and is how I met Barbara Lewalski. Since then, my academic career has proceeded pretty normally.
Every now and again you hear a story about how a teacher changed someone’s life in an altogether striking and unexpected way. Diane obviously did that for me. A few years before we met, I realized that I was seriously dyslexic. An observant friend, noting the sorts of mistakes that I made in my writing, brought it to my attention. Having grown up in an era before this condition was well understood and screened for in elementary schools, it had escaped everyone’s notice. As a result, I performed poorly throughout my school years. Even though I had dreamed of becoming a professor from my early teens, over the intervening three decades I came to accept the sobering reality that academia was not a life open to me.
It sounds like a cliché, but it is indeed difficult to keep believing, day after day, year after year, decade after decade, in your abilities and yourself when hardly anyone else does. Of the many challenges I’ve faced in life, this was perhaps the most difficult. At times, wondering how it could possibly be the case that everyone else was wrong about my abilities and potential, I deeply despaired.
Diane not only helped me realize a dream almost forgotten, her confidence and faith in my abilities allowed me to believe in myself in a way that I simply did not have the courage to do alone. With her support, my life, indeed who I now am, completely changed.
There is simply no way I can repay the debt of gratitude that I owe her.
Ken Hiltner, Professor
English and Environmental Studies
Director, Environmental Humanities Initiative
2508 South Hall, University of California, Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-3170
hiltner at english.ucsb.edu<mailto:hiltner at english.ucsb.edu>

From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu <milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu> on behalf of GREEN, MANDY A.L. <mandy.green at durham.ac.uk>
Sent: Sunday, January 14, 2018 9:19 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Very sad news

Sad news indeed; her work was an inspiration to me and so many others,


From: milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Steve Fallon
Sent: 13 January 2018 13:54
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at richmond.edu>
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Very sad news


Thanks for sharing this very Dad news. Diane was a model scholar and a marvelous human being.


Sent from my Android with its unruly Autocorrect

On Jan 12, 2018 11:58 PM, "Gardner Campbell" <gardner.campbell at gmail.com<mailto:gardner.campbell at gmail.com>> wrote:

Dear colleagues,

Diane McColley has passed away.

She saved my life. Without her work, friendship, and encouragement I would not be here. I am far from alone in that respect, I know.

My sincere condolences to all her loved ones. I loved her too.

Nothing more I can say at this point.

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