Rod Library--Special Collections
The University of Northern Iowa is pleased to confer the honorary Doctorate of Literature degree to Mildred Kalish for her embodiment of Midwestern values and lifelong commitment to education.
Ms. Kalish was born in Garrison, Iowa. Her growing up years were influenced by the Great Depression. She earned her teaching certificate at what was then known as the Iowa State Teachers College in Cedar Falls. After completing her degree, she moved to New York and accepted employment as a governess.
In 1942 Ms. Kalish joined the United States Coast Guard Women's Reserve. She received radio training in Oxford, Ohio, at Miami University. She was then stationed at the headquarters of the 5th Naval District in Norfolk, Virginia, where she met and married her husband, Harry.
Ms. Kalish continued her education at the University of Iowa and went on to teach at the University of Iowa, the State University of Missouri at Columbia, and Adelphi University in Garden City, New Jersey. She is a professor emeritus of English, retired from Suffolk County Community College on Long Island.
In 2007 Ms. Kalish released her memoir, "Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression." Her book offers a glimpse into the lives of rural children during one of the most challenging times in America's history. She writes of her upbringing and shows an appreciation for the challenges faced by her parents, recalling fond memories of living both in town and on the farm during her childhood.
Her book has received numerous awards, including being named best book by the New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, and Cleveland Plain Dealer. She also won the Iowa Reader Literary Award for Nonfiction in 2007, and in 2008 won Nonfiction Winner of the Midwest Booksellers' Choice Award.
From the University of Northern Iowa Commencement program, spring 2010, page 10