Richard T. Dillon: 1933 - 2015

Richard T. Dillon: 1933 - 2015

Richard T. Dillon, Emeritus English Professor, Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, and CLAS Associate Dean, was born in Waterbury, Connecticut, on August 19, 1933, and passed away at home in Denver, Colorado, on April 26, 2015.  Dillon graduated from Yale in 1955, and after serving four years in the Navy as a naval aviator, he entered graduate school at the University of California Berkeley. He earned both MA and PhD from UC Berkeley, with a primary interest in American Literature.

Dillon was an instrumental early faculty member who came to what was then the University of Colorado Denver Center (based in the Tramway Building) from Berkeley in the fall of 1969. As a self-described veteran of the free-speech and anti-war movements he experienced, as he put it, “Instant culture shock: no lovely campus, no political turmoil, no protesting students, no bell bottoms. Instead I found a one-building campus crowded with serious older students who fit one or two courses into their busy home and work schedules. Citizen students I called them. Eager, serious, and self-supporting, they changed the way I taught literature.”

Dillon enjoyed spending his career educating these students, who today are active in many areas and on many levels of Denver community life. One of these students was Ellie Caulkins, who took an early Dillon class, "Opera as Literature," and who, as a result, developed a life-long love of opera. She has been actively involved nationally with the Metropolitan Opera and locally with Opera Colorado. Caulkins remembers of Dillon, “His passion for opera came through in his teaching, and his mentoring of this neophyte opera-lover guided me over all these years. I deeply miss my teacher and friend.”  

Throughout the 1970s, Dillon led the college and the campus in many fights for survival and autonomy. His English department colleague, Emeritus Professor Rex Burns says of Dillon, “For over thirty years, Professor Dick Dillon served UCD well in a variety of academic and administrative roles. From Cal-Berkeley, he brought a healthy and often humorous perspective on campus bureaucracy, as well as a profound awareness of what a university should do: educate students not only in their academic disciplines but also in life. He was a good teacher and a good friend, and he is missed.”

Without Dick Dillon CU Denver might be a very different place today. In 1973, Dillon was proud to organize a three-day conference called Centering on the Seventies, alongside Emeritus Economics Professor Suzie Helburn. The conference gathered faculty, staff, students, and concerned citizens to establish a framework for CU Denver’s future. The resulting group reports were collated in a final, bold report which created a presence for the Denver campus in the CU system and a vision of the future of CU Denver. In 1974, Dillon was appointed Committee Chair of a group of faculty, staff, and students tasked with writing the first campus master plan. Dillon was later elected chair of the Faculty Assembly for 1974–1975, and in fall 1976 Chancellor Harold Haak appointed Dillon as the first acting Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs. When he left the Chancellor’s office Dillon became CLAS Associate Dean under Dean Daniel Fallon. Remembers Fallon, “When I was appointed Dean, Dick was serving as interim Academic Vice President. He was my boss before I became his. We quickly trusted each other. I happily approved his Italian sabbatical to study opera, and can hear him singing even now.” 

Always an avid traveler, Dillon was active in promoting and establishing a study abroad program at CU Denver. After returning to full-time teaching in the early 1980s Dillon’s research interests in the study of opera led him to take a 1983–1984 sabbatical in Florence, Italy, and to spend the following summer at Princeton as a National Endowment for the Humanities scholar. While at Princeton he studied Verdi operas under the leading opera scholar of the time, Harry Powers. Dillon next went to Canterbury, England, to teach on a faculty exchange. A few years later, with his wife Margaret, Dick co-directed the CU Boulder study-abroad program at the University of Regensburg, Germany. A year after that experience CLAS started a student exchange with Moscow State University and Dillon led a group of CU Denver students there on a summer program. In the fall of the following year, Dillon directed the CU Denver program at Moscow State and taught two literature courses to Russian English majors. Returning after his years of travel and scholarship abroad, Dillon said, “I found CU Denver’s English department thriving with many new hires, especially in the burgeoning writing program.” 

Dillon retired from the English Department in 1999. “I’m profoundly grateful for his contributions, for making the department what it is today, and for the contributions he has made in individual student’s lives,” says current English Department Chair, Professor Nancy Ciccone. “I’m also profoundly grateful for his turning this center into a campus and for putting us on the map, not only in Colorado but nationally and internationally.” 

Dillon was instrumental in planning and implementing the university’s 2013 Forty Year Anniversary celebrations, which recognized and celebrated the struggles and contributions of early faculty and administrators in establishing CU Denver. A highlights video of Dillon and other panelists speaking on March 8, 2013, can be seen here. Robert Damrauer, Associate Vice Chancellor, Special Assistant to the Provost and Professor of Chemistry, got to know Dillon better while working on the anniversary, and remembers, “Perhaps surprisingly, since Dick and I were colleagues from the 1960’s, I only really got to know him well during the last few years. By then Dick was retired, but still deeply into UCD affairs, and always concerned that people understand the history and travails that so many lived through at UCD in the early days.”

Reiterating Dillon’s dedication to his students as well, Damrauer says, “The nomination of Ellie Caulkins, first for the Outstanding Alumni Award and later for an honorary degree, brought us into contact in organizing the support for her nomination, just as it had for organizing the 40 year UCD celebration. In many ways Ellie represented a very public manifestation of his great love of opera and his extraordinary insight in teaching Opera as Literature. What I witnessed was the kind of acumen and organization that he obviously had demonstrated in his early administrative roles at UCD.”

Dick is survived by his wife of 54 years, Margaret Nagel Dillon, their two children and two grandchildren.  She requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the English Department’s Richard T. Dillon Scholarship Fund.

2 views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Letters from the Deans


CLAS Deans Award Celebration
CLAS Deans Award Celebration

The CLAS Dean's Annual Award Reception took place on Friday, May 8, in the Lawrence Street Center Terrace Room. The reception honored faculty, staff and students who received special recognition for their accomplishments in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2014-2015. Dean Pamela Jansma presided, and a complete list of winners and photographs is available.

24 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: News Archive

2015 CLAS Non-TenureTrack Faculty Professional Development Grants Announced

University of Colorado Denver Association of Lectures and Instructors is pleased to announce the recipients of the Spring 2015 CLAS Non-Tenure Track Faculty Professional Development Grants:

Yohainna Abdala-Mesa PhD, Lecturer, Modern Languages will design and lead a workshop for Modern Languages lecturers: Best Pedagogical Practices and Resources to Work with Students with Disabilities.

Joan T. Bihun PhD, CTT Department of Psychology for her project developing directed scenarios to enhance learning in developmental psychology to increase student’s critical thinking and course engagement.

Jeffery Golub PhD, Instructor Philosophy, ICB will attend two seminars relevant to his teaching in Beijing; the 24th Democracy and Diversity Graduate Summer Institute offered by the Trans-regional Center Democratic Studies in Wroclaw, Poland, and Globalized Classics held at the Humboldt University in Berlin, Germany.

Maren T. Scull PhD, Instructor Department of Sociology for her teaching enhancement project "Improving Technology in the Classroom."

Thorsten H. Spehn PhD, CTT Department of Political Science will present his work “External and Internal Contestation of Foreign Policy Roles: The Case of Germany’s Rediscovery of The Use of Force” at The American Political Science Association Annual Conference in San Francisco.

Julie Vick MA, Instructor Department of English for her teaching enhancement project evaluating and refining online writing instruction practices to improve learning outcomes and experiences for students.

17 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: News Archive

CLAS Spotlight

Communication again brings CommUnity to Beijing

The Department of Communication hosted its second annual "CommUnity Days 2015" event in Beijing. Among the highlights were the department's undergraduate ICB student awards ceremony, the Media Lab's "Grand Opening", the 2nd annual Documentary Film Festival, and a "Festival of Scholars" night where Department of Communication alumnus, Fan Zhang (MA George Washington University), delivered the keynote address. The purpose of CommUnity Days in Beijing is to promote unity through communication. "CommUnity Days 2015" was partially funded by a Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives Fund. The Department thanks everyone who was able to attend. 

39 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

English announces Gorniak Scholarship winners

The Department of English has finished reviewing applications for the 2015-2016 Michael S. Gorniak Memorial Scholarship and is pleased to announce three scholarship recipients: Amanda Parker will receive $1000; Celeste Spink will receive $500; and Alison Auger will receive $250.

Amanda Parker is a Communication major and Creative Writing minor. She finds that global change starts at the local level, and strives to better the lives of at-risk and subjugated populations through creative communicative practices.  She volunteers at the Denver Regional Diagnostics Center (DRDC) to educate incarcerated people on creative writing and public speaking discourse, and edits the University publication Captured Words Free Thoughts (CWFT). Parker plans to extend this work into a career benefiting at-risk populations in Denver through bringing them the tools needed for positive growth through creative expression.

Celeste Spink is a Psychology major and a Creative Writing minor. She is a queer Hopi, Dineh (Navajo), and Colombian community organizer, artist and writer. Deeply involved in the community, in high school Spink co-founded the Indigenous Youth Sovereignty Project (an Indigenous youth-led collective primarily focused on politicized art and media reclamation), served as Secretary/Treasurer for the Board of Directors for the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR) for three years, and currently is involved in a new independent community project focused on Latina and Indigenous birth-work. 

Alison Auger is an English major with a Creative Writing concentration. She has been working for the literary organization Tethered by Letters since she graduated high school. She has served as an intern, a junior editor, and is now Special Project Director and Executive Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief.  Alison feels that it’s not enough to just know that the rest of the world has something important to say through their poetry and fiction—she feels the need to engage with it, to read more works outside her own country and help make their voices heard. Her goal as a Creative Writing major is to pursue the dream of becoming a writer, and help others do the same.

Parker, Spink and Auger all exemplify the spirit of Michael Gorniak through their commitment to activism and education in their communities, and their dedication to making the world a better place through the creative arts. The Department of English congratulates them, as well as all of the applicants for this scholarship, for honoring and preserving the memory of Michael S. Gorniak.

37 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

Geography proud of strong showing at AAG national meeting

The Department of Geography & Environmental Sciences had the largest combined faculty/student group ever attending the national Association of American Geographers meeting in Chicago, IL, from April 21-25:


Anna Parker Solverson, a student in the MSES program, received the 2015 M. Gordon “Reds” Wolman Graduate Student Research Award, given by the Geomorphology Specialty Group of the AAG through a competitive process. Guided by Professor Anne Chin, Anna is developing new interdisciplinary frameworks to understand the geomorphological and ecological responses in mountain river channels following the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire. The Wolman Graduate Student Research Award includes a monetary grant to assist Anna with completing her thesis research.

Tera Del Priore: won the AAG Paleoenvironmental Specialty Group 2015 Undergraduate/Masters Paper Presentation Award. The presentation was a summary of Tera’s thesis that she recently defended on reconstructing disturbances in subalpine forests using proxy evidence preserved in lake sediments from Taylor Park west of Buena Vista, CO. Presenting, “4,000 Years of Environmental Change in Central Colorado: A Paleoecological Perspective

Issamar Pichardo and Jeannette Rodriguez: presented, “Recovery of Latino Communities after the September 2013 Colorado Flash Floods”

Chris Andersen and Olga Serenchenko: poster, “Anthropogenic Controls on Late Holocene Fire Activity in Northern Vietnam”

Erik Ahl: poster, “General Nature and Distribution of Biological Soil Crusts in Alpine Environments”

Susanna Diller: poster, “The Relationship of Social Media and Area Marketing in Promoting Boybands”

Kate Rigot: presented, “Public Participation GIS and Homelessness in Denver, CO”

Nicole Brunner: presented, “Validation of the 2008 USGS Burned Area Essential Climate Variable (BAECV) Product”

Anna Gibson: Geography Bowl member on the GR-RM Regional Team

Others students attending, but not presenting: Eric Wahlberg


Deb Thomas: (with Issamar and Jeannette) Presenting, “Recovery of Latino Communities after the September 2013 Colorado Flash Floods”

Christy Briles:Holocene Fire Activity and Forest Response to Climate Change in Northern California”

Amanda Weaver: “Food Production, Sustainability, and Urban Geography: A Certificate Program in Urban Agriculture at the Heart of Denver”

Anne Chin: Discussant, “The View from the Anthropocene: Measuring the Historic Human Impact on the Environment and Landscape II”

Gregory Simon: Discussant, “Discourse, Disaster, and the Urban Hazardscape I &  II”; “In the Green Kitchen: Critically assessing Domestic Energy Interventions for Climate and Development (Session 1)”

Casey Allen: “The Value of Short-term International Field Study Programs: Maymester in Grenada, West Indies”

Rudi Hartmann: “The Impact of Mega Sports Events on Mountain Resort Development: The Case of the Alpine World Championships in Vail/Beaver Creek 1989, 1999, and 2015”

35 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

Beer awarded 2016 Mary Wood Fellowship
Beer awarded 2016 Mary Wood Fellowship

The Rose O’Neill Literary House has named Assistant Professor in English Nicky Beer as the winner of the 2016 Mary Wood Fellowship, at Washington College. This award is for emerging female-identifying writers, and will involve doing a three day residency at Washington College next spring. While there, Beer will do a reading, a craft talk, and have one-on-one meetings with female-identifying creative writing students.

41 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

Hunt on the confederate flag
Hunt on the confederate flag

In response to the news of group of Parker teenagers who posed with the confederate flag for prom pictures, Senior Instructor in History Rebecca Hunt spoke with Fox31 regarding the history of the Confederate Flag.

Controversial prom picture using guns, Confederate flag brings apology from one student
, May 5

40 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

Levine-Clark presents in Chicago
Levine-Clark presents in Chicago

Marjorie Levine-Clark, Associate Professor of History, presented "'It is not that I am idle': Unemployment and Contested Masculinities in 1920s Britain," at the University of Chicago conference, "Masculinities on the British Fringe" last month. This conference focused on the lived realities of those on the fringes of British society and how fringe masculinities co-existed with, had an influence on, and were influenced by, more mainstream concepts of male behavior.

36 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

Wee busy while on sabbatical
Wee busy while on sabbatical

Bryan Wee, Associate Professor in Geography and Environmental Sciences, gave a guest lecture in Stockholm on Science, Love, and Our Environmental Futures,” hosted by the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation. Wee also presented a research paper at the annual Nordic Conference for Education in Helsinki, “Talking about children’s talk: Social discourses, education and the environment.” This paper, co-authored with Swedish faculty and students, will be submitted to the journal Environmental Education Research. In recognition of his efforts to advance international research and teaching collaborations, Wee was recently accorded the position of affiliated professor at Stockholm University.

42 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

York nominated for posthumous Colorado Book Award
York nominated for posthumous Colorado Book Award

When poet Jake Adam York (Associate Professor of English) died suddenly of a stroke in December 2012 at the age of forty, he left behind an unpublished book of poetry, Abide, and a literary journal, Copper Nickel, which he'd founded a decade earlier at the University of Colorado Denver. This year Abide was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award; it's now one of three finalists for a Colorado Book Award in the poetry category. And after a two-year hiatus, Copper Nickel has started a new chapter under managing editor Wayne Miller, with issue 20 now on the shelves.

Jake Adam York's Abide Up For Posthumous Award As Copper Nickel Rises Again
, May 4

42 Views | Issue: May 14, 2015 | Archive: Spotlight Archive

University Events


May 15
8:00am – 12noon
North Classroom 1130

A career with Kaiser Permanente Colorado will allow you to lead the future of health care and improve the health of members, employees, and the communities we serve. Students earning degrees in the following fields are invited to the BioMedical Services, Business, Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Health Care Admin, Health Information Technology, Public Health Admin, or related fields are encouraged to attend. For more information visit

19 views | Issue: April 30, 2015 | Archive: Student Life Events

Faculty and Staff First-Gen Network Launch Luncheon

May 18
11:30am – 1:00pm

At CU Denver, we are proud to welcome many first-generation students: those who will be in the first generation of their families to complete college. These students enrich our campus through their perspectives, their experiences, and their dreams for the future. We are also fortunate to have a number of faculty and staff who identify as first generation, and many others who, although not first generation themselves, regularly go the extra mile to ensure the success of our students. 

In an effort to better support each other, and to support and celebrate our first-generation students, we invite you to join our growing First Generation Network.  In the meantime, if you would like to be part of the network, please take a few moments to give us your information using this form:  

For more information contact Kelly Hupfeld, School of Public Affairs,

58 views | Issue: April 30, 2015 | Archive: Student Life Events

CU Online Spring Symposium

May 20
Liniger Building at CU South Denver

The CU Online Spring Symposium is an annual event highlighting the best in academic technology, tools, technique, trends and topics. Sharpen your online skills and help shape CU Online's focus for the coming year. This year's event will be hosted by Bryan Alexander. Bryan is a futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher, working in the field of how technology transforms education. He completed his English language and literature PhD at the University of Michigan in 1997, with a dissertation on doppelgängers in Romantic-era fiction and poetry. Since 2002, Bryan has worked with the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), a non-profit working to help small colleges and universities best integrate digital technologies.

89 views | Issue: April 30, 2015 | Archive: Student Life Events

CLAS Events

Spring Commencement

May 16
9:00 am – 1:00 pm
Auraria Athletic Fields

There are no tickets for this event, and no limit to the number of guests graduates may invite.  This is a first-come, first-served seating event and ADA needs will be accommodated.

CLAS will host a reception immediately following the ceremony in the Tivoli Turnhalle. Light refreshments will be served. Please contact Karen Fennell for more information at 303-556-2624.

61 views | Issue: April 30, 2015 | Archive: CLAS Events

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