Julian cared deeply about educating students and helping them pursue their goals. Paula Eckard is one of Julian’s former students, and she comments on Julian’s impact on her education in the paragraph that she sent to me:
Julian’s Southern literature class was the last course I needed for my bachelor’s degree in English. I knew it would be challenging, and it was. Each week he gave me writers I could relate to: William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Carson McCullers, Lee Smith, Thomas Wolfe. For the first time in my adult intellectual life, I felt like I had found home. These were my people. Their language was my language, and their stories were ones I knew from living in the South. Julian must have sensed this awareness in me, too, and set about to persuade me to enroll in the English Department’s M.A. Program. Toward the end of the semester, he pulled me aside and said, “You should go to graduate school so you can teach.” “Why?” I asked, not really comprehending the import of what he was saying, “I am a nurse, not an English teacher.” He replied, “Well, I think you would be good at it.” Those words changed my life. The work I do today, every rich aspect of it, is the direct result of Julian’s encouragement and belief in me. His love of literature, sense of excellence, and generous humanity continue to inspire me and others who were fortunate enough to study with him at UNC Charlotte.
Julian also took an interest in helping faculty members develop their careers. Sandra (Sandy) Govan comments on this side of Julian in her paragraph:
I am about to depart for CLA–the College Language Association–conference in early April. I mention this fact only because it was at a CLA conference where I first met Julian. During the Q & A of a session that had just concluded, Julian was peppering a presenter with pointed questions. Or, I was and he was supporting my critical commentary. It’s a bit hazy now. Anyway, after the session we chatted a few moments about how the presenter could have done a decidedly better job. The next time I met him was at the 1982 MLA conference held in LA. This is a far more distinct memory because the first thing Julian did was offer to take me to lunch (and food was always important in our relationship) before he set about convincing me to leave the University of Kentucky, a flagship school, to come to UNCC–at that time a picket boat. A prescient man, Julian assured me the status of the school would change and that I could be part of that change. He also assured me that I would not be a “first” nor an “only”–as in. the only African American faculty member in the English Department because Mary Harper was already ensconced here and. the department has a strong connection to developing Black Studies Program–now Africana Studies. He told me I could plant a flag in each camp; and for awhile, I did. But probably my clearest “most best” memory of the man were the steps he willingly took to assure that I came to Charlotte and to make certain that I would be happy here. It wasn’t the salary bump he offered; it wasn’t the way he tested my interviewing skills. Rather, the wily Julian took me to my first grand Motown concert! Despite a hearing problem in one ear, the Chair of the English Department took me to see Diana Ross at Ovens Auditorium–large, loud, cavernous Ovens. Now that, I submit, is a department chair willing to go that extra mile. I would be remiss if I didn’t add in closing that despite his retirement. Julian and Elsie remained close to me. Here in this 2018 NCAA tournament season you should know that Julian (who once played percussion in the pep band that accompanied UNC to b-ball games) and I shared a love of basketball. And over the retirement years, we continued to share an appreciation of basketball, books, poetry, chocolate, and golden cake with chocolate icing.
Julian also helped Anita Moss during the early stages of her career as a member of our English Department as she explains in her paragraph:
Julian was invariably generous to his colleagues. In 1977, I returned to the department after completing my doctoral coursework from Indiana University, but I still needed to take my doctoral exams. That meant expensive and exhausting trips to Indiana. One day Julian asked if I knew that the graduate director at Indiana University would probably allow him to administer the exams, a solution saving me time and money. Julian took his valuable time to administer the exams and later proudly announced that I had passed with distinction. I believe Julian was genuinely pleased at the accomplishments of his colleagues. My other memory concerns Julian as sleuth. Once there was an outbreak of crime in the English Department– stolen purses out of offices, toilet paper thefts in the restrooms, a streaker who once raced totally nude down the corridor in Garinger, and a hateful trickster who filled the locks of our offices with super glue. During this period Julian took to wearing his Sherlock Holmes hat as he made his inquiries and observations, and engaged in deep thinking. I do not know whether or not any of the miscreants were apprehended.
Julian had a playful, impish side. I learned this the hard way at the first faculty party I attended. It may have been held at Julian and Elsie’s home. As what I would now consider an act of faculty hazing, Julian came up to me to offer some freshly picked scuppernongs (the official state fruit of NC, I later learned). Julian seemed to take devilish delight as I popped a scuppernong into my mouth, smiled at the sweetness of the fruit, and then winced at the bitterness of the fruit’s leather-tough skin, which was not meant to be chewed or swallowed. I can still see the smile playing on Julian’s lips as he offered me a napkin into which I could discretely dispose the remains. It was Julian’s way of welcoming this Philadelphia Yankee to the South. I have to share another memory—one which reveals Julian’s sensitivity toward students. At a faculty meeting, he chided several of us who insisted that student papers be typed. He reminded us that there were some students who didn’t own typewriters, and that we should accept handwritten work. I can’t imagine anything like that happening today.
Julian was a man of glorious contradictions. A staunch civil rights activist, and cognizant of all the latest trends in books and scholarship and politics, he absolutely despised computers. Knowing I was already involved with them — and this is pre-World-Wide-Web, mind you — he called me to his office to proudly display why he felt he didn’t need them. They were trackers, he said, glorified calendars. His desk was covered with small scraps of paper he was recycling and they were covered with notes in his miniscule writing. They did the job, he felt. Then he lobbied the vice-chancellor and dean for desktop computers for everyone in the department who wanted one. I never dared ask him about cellphones. Nobody could have been more supportive of faculty needs or committed to diversity. He took 24 hours (or more) to work through every issue, every question or request and then marshaled whatever help was needed. And because he was a man of incandescent (and sometimes blistering) honesty, he neither minced words of concern nor withheld words of praise. He pushed me into increasing my research, nudged me into trying different outlets for my writing, showed me how to collaborate with others. Thank you, Julian, then and now.
Shelby LeClair, a December graduate of our BA program, won the Carol Gay Award from the Children’s Literature Association for her essay “Serious Matters: How Humor Functions in Young Adult Literature about the Holocaust.” The Carol Gay Award recognizes an outstanding essay written by an undergraduate student. Sarah Minslow nominated Shelby for this award.
Lara Vetter has been awarded a Beinecke Library Visiting Postdoctoral Research Fellowship. She will spend May of 2019 in residence at Yale University working on a scholarly edition of H.D.’s short fiction.
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Quirky Quiz Question — Julian’s Mason was a widely recognized authority on an early African American poet. What is the name of this poet?