By Alyssa Allemand and William R.K. Lund
David Young has been a professor in the English Department at Edgewood College for 25 years. He taught classes in creative writing, literature, and journalism. He offered the department’s first courses in Irish Literature and Literature of the American West. “I enjoyed teaching those two courses immensely,” Young said.
But his heart is in writing. For 22 of his 25 years at Edgewood, he advised student publications, from the Edgewood Review literary magazine to On The Edge, the student newspaper.
“Many of my really fond memories of being at Edgewood are working with students on publications,” said Young, who is 72. “I think of myself as a writing coach. I like that role.”
For 10 years, he advised On The Edge News. In 1999, the newspaper won first place in the Wisconsin Newspaper Association college newspaper contest.
English Department Chair Lauren Lacey credits Young for his dedication to student work. “I have always admired David’s commitment to Edgewood students and their successes,” she said. “He cares deeply about each student’s path, both within Edgewood and beyond.”
Young, who holds a masters of fine arts degree from Indiana University, spent some early years as a journalist. He said his five years at Rolling Stone magazine may have helped him get a job at Edgewood College in 1994.
But in 1973, he had just arrived in San Francisco after spending eleven months backpacking in Europe post-college graduation. He had been to the city only once as a child. “It left a real impression on my brain,” Young said.
He didn’t have a job lined up, but as an avid rock and roll fan, he wrote a letter to Rolling Stone magazine. “I just said, ‘I’m here, and I would like to work for you.’”
The letter found its way to the editor, and Young started out as a nighttime proofreader for the magazine. He worked various positions in the editorial department and met his wife, Nancy Rinehart, there—she worked in the art department. She is now the senior graphic designer at University Marketing at UW-Madison.
“I was hoping to land good tickets for concerts,” he said, “and many times I did.”
He loved San Francisco, but he was raised in Indiana and played high school basketball there. “I loved being on the team,” he said. “I was on the bench. I was a reserve. I didn’t play much, but we were good. I was a gunner, but not a complete player.”
He majored in history at Duke University, and at the age of 34, he earned an MFA.
He had lived in Indiana from the first-grade through high school. “I applied to Indiana partly because I thought it’d be interesting to go back … I hadn’t been there in a long time,” he said.
“I really didn’t know what I was doing. I had been working for seven years or so. I thought I wanted to do more writing.”
With his MFA, Young first taught at the University of New Orleans under a five-year non-renewable appointment.
“It seems like half the people who went there fell in love with New Orleans,” Young said, including himself. His son Matthew, daughter-in-law Jacki, and baby grandson Nico live there.
His daughter Avery is a field biologist with the U.S. Forest Service in the Rocky Mountains based in Buffalo Creek, Colo.
After New Orleans, Young took a job at Beloit College, where he spent another five years. He and his family lived in Madison, and Young commuted to Beloit.
“This was difficult as my wife was also working full-time, and we had two small children,” Young said. “I was happy when a job opened up at Edgewood. I liked Madison, and I still like Madison a lot. I think this is a good city.”
When Young started advising On The Edge, he encouraged the staff to turn the lens more on the college. The staff published a story on student dissatisfaction with the residence halls, and the college president at the time confronted Young. That led to the creation of the Student Newspaper Advisory Board.
“There were some troubling years in there when I was advising the paper,” Young said. “I don’t think Edgewood College quite knew what to make of the idea of an independent newspaper.”
On The Edge was being printed every three weeks. Young said he remembers pulling several all-nighters with the news staff. “I developed some friendships with the students that are still important friendships,” he said.
Young is also thankful for the support he received from the Dominican sisters of Edgewood College. “[They] were very supportive of my efforts on the student newspaper,” he said. Young mentioned Sisters Mary Paynter, Winifred Morgan, Jean Richter, Esther Heffernan, and Maureen McDonnell. “They truly believed in the importance of inquiry in a liberal arts education.”
He said Vince Kavaloski, former professor of philosophy, was another faculty member that encouraged him to keep going, as well as support from Advisory Board members Fred Kauffeld, Cynthia Rolling, Larry Engel, and John Fields.
Current faculty members appreciate Young just as much. “David Young has helped channel the creative writing powers of this campus for many years,” said English Lecturer Adam Fell, who is now the adviser of the Edgewood Review. “He is a gracious, intelligent, kind person who cares fiercely for his students and has worked immensely hard on their behalf.”
Some of Young’s short stories, poems, and magazine articles have been published, as well as a few academic essays. “I guess I’m a dabbler,” he said. For his fiction, however, he was awarded a Creative Writing Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1990. His academic writing has included work on writers such as William Styron and Raymond Carver.
During his retirement, Young plans to do more reading and writing. “I have some stories I need to finish,” he said.
For example, he wants to create a piece of narrative non-fiction based on stories Young’s grandmother told him. “She sat me down by her bedside and had me write down all these notes about her life,” Young said. “I want to write something for my family.”
Charlotte Meyer, a former faculty member of the English department, described Young’s personality in relation to his handwriting: “It’s distinctive. It has style,” she said. “It’s precise and careful, but flexible and fluid, pleasant to read, consistent, suggestive of personal integrity and an artful disposition in the writer.”
“He was just a great, always interesting, courteous, trustworthy, supportive colleague,” she said.