Chappell lauds value of university education
(May 17, 1998)
Under a cloudless sky Saturday (May 16), Fred Chappell, the poet laureate of North Carolina, sent the latest East Carolina University graduates off with a ringing endorsement of a university education.
Chappell, a professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, said, "Education makes it possible for us to recognize that the world presents us a different pattern of meaning to decipher every day and every hour that we live, and that this pattern is composed of elements long familiar to us from our studies in history, science, politics, religion, literature and art."
Addressing about 2,000 degree candidates and more than 15,000 spectators at sun-drenched Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Chappell debunked the notion of the self-made man.
"The fantasy of being self-made is one that is available only to the highly privileged person on this planet," he said. "It is a fantasy not available to the university graduate who has been given some inkling of where he or she stands in relation to the past."
"In fact," he said, "the university has become so integral a part of society that it is impossible to imagine our contemporary America without it."
"If you could abstract the university from present-day America, some things would not change very much. Philosophy, ancient literature, religion and art would be less affected than other institutions. "But our national defense would be painfully damaged if not mortally wounded; our industries would be weakened and our systems of commerce soon outmoded."
Chappell has been a member of the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Greensboro since 1964. He teaches advanced composition, poetry and fiction, and he is the author of seven novels, 14 volumes of poetry, a book of essays and two books of short stories. His work has received wide critical recognition. His poems are the subject of a new book of essays, Dream Garden: The Poetry of Fred Chappell, edited by Dr. Patrick Bizzaro of the ECU English Department.
Chappell's most recent novel, "Farewell, I'm Bound to Leave You," was released in 1996. His most recent book of poetry, "Spring Garden: New and Collected Poems," was published in 1995. His collection of essays on poetry, titled "Plow Naked," was released in the fall of 1993. He is working on a new novel, "Look Back All the Green Valley," and a new collection of poems, "Family Gathering." A new book of criticism, "A Way of Happening," will be released in March.