July 22, 2009
Dr. Ken Macrorie, a retired Western Michigan University professor who was nationally known for his methods of teaching writing, died Saturday, July 11, in Las Cruces, N.M. He was 90.
Macrorie served on the WMU faculty as a professor of English from 1961 until his retirement with emeritus status in 1978. A native of Moline, Ill., he received a bachelor's degree from Oberlin College in 1940, served in the Army during World War II, earned a master's degree in 1948 from the University of North Carolina and a doctoral degree in 1955 from Columbia University.
Before coming to WMU, he was an associate professor of English at San Francisco State College during the 1960-61 academic year, and he taught communication skills at Michigan State University from 1948 to 1960.
From 1962 to 1964, he was editor of the professional journal College Composition and Communication, a quarterly publication of the National Council of Teachers of English. Macrorie wrote a number of books on teaching writing, including "The Perceptive Writer, Reader and Speaker," "Four in Depth," "Telling Writing," "Uptaught" and "Writing to be Read." He also wrote numerous magazine articles.
While at WMU, he assumed a national leadership role in re-educating teachers trapped in unproductive teaching methods, helping them to become better writers and to pass that knowledge on to their students. As a teacher, he tried to unlock the latent writing ability of his students, helping them to find and tell truths, identify their interests, research their curiosity and organize what they wanted to say in memorable prose.
Macrorie also taught at the Breadloaf Graduate School of English, a summer master's program for Vermont's Middlebury College, where he mostly taught other teachers to become better writers and take that knowledge back to the classroom. He continued to teach there for many years after he retired and moved to Santa Fe, N.M., in 1978.
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