In Remembrance: Emory Elliott

By Elizabeth Romero Student Intern CHASS College Computing
June 8, 2009

English majors are required to take a lower-division trio-series; English 20A, 20B, and 20C. Winter quarter of 2008 I set to embark on 20B. A Tuesday/Thursday class, I walked into the University Theatre at 11:10am where syllabi were being passed down to the students scattered across the theater. "Intro to American Literary Tradition" was written across the piece of paper I had, mapping out what my 10-weeks would look like; Professor Emory Elliott stated who I would write my papers for. He wasn't special that I knew of just another professor at UCR.

The second day, class was then moved to the new INTS lecture hall, a smaller space with fewer seats, taking the once scattered students and forcing them, more or less, into a gigantic blob of sophomores. We heard the stories of Baltimore, Princeton, Joyce-Carol Oates, and Tony Morrison whilst he compared them to The Color Midnight Made, Benito Cereno, and Summer. Students would raise their hands to ask a question or make a comment, where upon Elliott would ask "Tell me your name." He told us he was sad that he was not allowed to have his own discussion session. To solve this problem, he made guest appearances instead. Tuesday at 9:10am, Elliott entered my discussion session and sat at my table, right next to me, and asked what I thought. I felt strange, I felt weird, and this barrier that I always thought of professor being of another dimension was crumbling. He asked my name, he conversed with me, and from then on, when he saw me on campus that quarter, I got the nod of recognition.

When news hit of Elliott's passing, it felt more than right to attend the memorial that was held for him June 1st. Ironically, the day I met Elliot and the day I would say my final good-bye would take place at the University Theater at 3pm. Professors to me, colleagues to him, friends, and family were in attendance to pay their last respects. With a welcome by Dean Stephen Cullenberg, 18 other colleagues took to the podium to express their gratitude, their sorrow, and their memories.

Katherine Kinney saw the "genuine qualities" of Elliott, where she further stated that to "seek to pass the knowledge along" would help to keep Elliott's presence with us.

David Theo Goldberg ended his speech by saying "I hope it's not too late to say a simple thank you."

Ruth Simmons, President at Brown University who attempted to take Elliott back East, said that "We exist to be touched by others", which is what Elliott did to all.

Justin Cosner, a 4th year English major, told the amazement that he felt when he asked Elliott for a letter of recommendation that was needed in 2 days. Even though Elliott was in China, the letter was written, and it was sent.  Carlos Rivas, a 3rd year English major who attended the service with me, remarked on Elliott: "Most professors are really hesitant about Letter of Recs, but Elliott was willing to do anything to help anyone."

"It was that cup of coffee...that one line," Susan Straight stated, that Elliott gave her: the introduction to Joyce-Carol Oates that paved the way for whom Straight is today.

It seemed everybody had Elliott's phone number. Some had them on their top-five, some still can't come to delete his number on their black-berries; graduate students were amazed that Elliott would even answer. Some would call Elliott and use every "five to ten letter curse word you could imagine", as Dylan Rodriguez told in his story, only to have Elliott call back and be the one to apologize for getting the other person mad.

Steve Axelrod took to the podium and told of his experience of eating at Jammin' Bread with Elliott and the issue of who would pay for the bill.  He told of how Elliott made him teach the subject that he loved - poetry - instead of what the "English department needed me for" as Axelrod stated, and how Elliott saw things in Axelrod that Axelrod didn't see in himself.

Axelrod sent an email to my poetry class in which he took a passage from a poem to encapsulate the feelings of the memorial.

"...sit openly-
to the weather as to grief.
Or do you think you can shut grief in?
What-from us? We who have perhaps
nothing to lose? Share with us,
share with us..." -William Carlos Williams, Tract

Nobody who attended the memorial had anything to lose, but had more to gain in the remembrance of Emory Elliott.

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Career OpportunitiesUCR Libraries
Campus StatusDirections to UCR

College Information

College Student Academic Affairs (All Student Inquiries)
3400 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.

Tel: (951) 827-3683 | Fax: (951) 827-5836

College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences
3413 Humanities & Social Sciences Bldg.