James Schell Hearst

TO: All Faculty and Staff
FROM: Jan C. Robbins, Department of English Language and Literature
DATE: 28 July 1983

James Schell Hearst, Emeritus Professor at UNI, died Wednesday morning, July 27, 1983, at his home following a lengthy illness. Hearst taught at UNI from 1941 through 1975. He was granted the first honorary Doctor of Letters degree to be given at UNI in 1975. At that time President Kamerick said of him, "Mr. Hearst has brought more honor and prestige to the University than the University can ever bestow upon him."

James Hearst was born August 8, 1900, in Black Hawk County. The Hearst name has been associated with this institution for more than a century beginning with James' aunt who was secretary to an early president. Hearst attended the Campus High School, then located in Sabin Hall. He also attended the Iowa State Teachers College for two years before enlisting in the Army during World War I.

During a long and distinguished life, James Hearst was a farmer, teacher, and poet who came to be known and respected throughout the country. His thirteen volumes of poetry and two autobiographical works have won him praise and honors on both the state and national level, and recently he has gained attention abroad for his poetic mastering of the Midwest American speech and life in more than six hundred published poems.

There will be no formal ceremonies marking Hearst's death. The family requests that any memorial contributions be made to the James Hearst Scholarship Fund, College of Humanities and Fine Arts, UNI.

Robert J. Ward


James Hearst--UNI Emeritus Professor, Dies at 82

James Schell Hearst, 82, 304 W. Seerley Boulevard, Cedar Falls, an emeritus professor of creative writing at the University of Northern Iowa, died Wednesday morning, July 27, 1983, at his home following a lengthy illness.

Hearst was well-known throughout the nation as a poet, philosopher, and educator. He taught at the University from 1941 to 1975, retiring as a Distinguished Professor of English. He was granted an honorary doctor of letters degree in 1975, the first to be bestowed by UNI in many years.

University President John J. Kamerick said of Hearst when awarding the degree, "The UNI committee charged with this responsibility and the Faculty Senate have shown an admirable and perceptive sensitivity to those values and purposes which honorary degrees were established to enhance. Mr. Hearst has brought more honor and prestige to the University than the University can ever bestow upon him."

At Hearst's request, there will not be a funeral service. The family requests memorials be made to the James Hearst Scholarship Fund through Dean Thomas Thompson of the UNI College of Humanities and Fine Arts

Survivors include his wife, Meryl, and several nieces and nephews.

In a 1979 interview in the Cedar Falls Record, Hearst said, "You can't force the poem to say what you want it to say. If you've got something to say so bad, you can write an editorial. But let the poem go its own way. Otherwise, you are manhandling it, and it is going to be misshapen when you get through with it."

Hearst was born on August 8, 1900, in Black Hawk County, west of Cedar Falls. He and his brother Charles owned and managed a five hundred acre farm. Hearst began his professional writing career in his mid-20s by contributing to Wallace`s Farmer magazine. Since then his works have appeared in scores of publications.

He attended UNI for two years before joining the US Army during the first World War. He returned to farming after a crippling injury in 1919 and began to write poetry about the land and people he knew on the farm.

He authored twelve volumes of poetry: "Country Men" in 1937, "Country Men" second edition in 1938, "The Sun at Noon" in 1943, "Country Men" third edition in 1943, "Man and His Field" in 1951, "A Limited View" in 1962, "A Single Focus" in 1967, "Dry Leaves" in 1975, "Shaken by Leaf Fall" in 1976, "Proved by Trial" in 1977, "Snake in the Strawberries" in 1979, and "Landmark and other Poems" in 1979.

He published two books of prose in 1982 titled "My Shadow Below Me" and "Time Like a Furrow." In 1979, he published a novel, "Bonesetter's Brawl," from a manuscript by his first wife, Carmelita Calderwood, which he completed and edited.

During 1982 UNI Homecoming/Reunion ceremonies, he was cited to receive one of six alumni achievement awards for excellence in his chosen field. He also has received the Iowa Bicentennial Artist Recognition Award and the Johnson Brigham Award in 1977. In 1963, he was named Best Iowa Poet of the Year by the Midland Booksellers Association.

Hearst was one of five Iowa residents honored with an Outstanding Service Award in recognition of Iowans aged sixty and older in the fall of 1982. The award was sponsored by the Iowa Arts Council, the Iowa Humanities Board, and the Iowa Commission on Aging,

He and his brother Charles were named co-recipients of the Cedar Falls Chamber of Commerce Representative Citizen Award for 1981. Charles died in November 1980, and his wife, Gladys, accepted the award made posthumously.

Hearst was honored by the Cedar Arts Forum, the local community, and UNI in 1981 with a special "Tribute to James Hearst." The program included the premier of the cantata "Blind with Rainbows," based on one of his poems. The score was written by William P. Latham, emeritus professor of music at UNI. Poems from his "Furrows and Gates" were adapted for Readers Theatre, directed by Phyllis Scott Carlin, UNI assistant professor of speech. The Iowa Humanities Board funded a UNI Readers Theatre touring production of his poetry in spring 1982, with performances in Marshalltown, Waverly, Independence, Cedar Falls, and Waterloo.

Proceeds from the tribute were used to establish the James Hearst Scholarship Fund for students in the College of Humanities and Fine Arts at UNI. The first award was made for the fall 1983 semester to Nena Marie Lovrien, a senior from Charles City.

The University of Nebraska sent a television crew to Cedar Falls in 1979 to do a three hour videotape program on Hearst. For half the program, he read his own works.

In honor of UNI's Centennial, Hearst wrote a poem, "Evergreen Transformations,'' which was read for the first time at the 1976 spring Commencement ceremonies by the late Stanley G. Wood, director of theatre at UNI for more than thirty years.

The North American Review, an award-winning literary magazine based at UNI, named its fall 1974 issue "The James Hearst Issue." It featured Hearst's poetry, a bibliography of his works, an essay on his life, and contributions about him from other writers.

In the spring of 1968, he spent a week in northwest Iowa talking at high schools about literature at the request of the Iowa Arts Council. He also was honored at the 85th annual UNI Alumni Association reunion with an Alumni Service Award in May 1968.

During the summers of 1966-1971, Hearst directed the Aspen School of Contemporary Art in Colorado. For many summers he was poet-in-residence at Aspen and spent other summers in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico.

In 1965, "Things as They Are" was released, the first record album of Hearst reading his own poetry. The album, distributed by Variety Sound Corporation, contains selections from his published volumes.

Hearst studied at UNI, the University of Iowa, and the University of Guanajuato, Mexico.

Among the publications in which his works have appeared are The Nation, the Des Moines Register, the Chicago Sun-Times, Prairie Schooner, the New York Herald Tribune, Ladies Home Journal, the Saturday Evening Post, Poetry, Chicago Jewish Forum, Canadian Poetry Magazine, The Sparrow, Educational Leadership, The Instructor, America, and American Friends Magazine.

Also, The Iowan, the Kansas Magazine, Hawk and Whippoorwill, Compass Review, Poetry Dial, Discourse, The Humanist, Wormwood Review, the Iowa English Workshop, Voyages to the Inland Sea, Virginia Quarterly Review, Heartland, the Christian Science Monitor, and Growing Up in Iowa.

His farming articles have appeared in such publications as Commonweal, The Nation, the Des Moines Register, and the Chicago Sun-Times. He served as farm editor of the Mid-West News in Cedar Falls in 1937.

Hearst also served as a reader for Midland, a literary magazine published in Iowa City.

He was a member of the American Association of University Professors, the American Civil Liberties Union, United World Federalists, United Nations Association, Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club, Cedar Falls Historical Society, and Rotary Club.

---Adapted from a University of Northern Iowa news release, July 27, 1983.


Rod Library Special Collections and University Archives
University of Northern Iowa
Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613-3675
Telephone: (319)-273-6307
Fax: (319)-273-2913
Email: Gerald.Peterson@uni.edu