Division of Humanities

Dennis Martin

English Department

Dennis Martin
  • Professional
  • Personal


  • Ph.D., University of California at Los Angeles, 1973
  • M.A., Purdue University, 1966
  • B.S., Edinboro State College, 1964


  • Teaching Excellence Award, PLU Center for Teaching & Learning, 1999


Professor Dennis M. Martin, of the English Department, retired spring 2012, after completing thirty-five
years of teaching and service at PLU.

Dennis earned his Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles and began teaching at PLU in 1976. He has provided leadership and service to the University in numerous capacities. He served as Dean of the Division of Humanities from 1981-1986; as Vice-Chair of the Faculty from 1996-1998 and Chair from 1998-2000; as Chair of the Integrated Studies Program; and on numerous University Committees, including the Rank and Tenure Committee and the Faculty Affairs Committee.

But Dennis has always been a teacher, first and foremost. He has brought his passion for American literature to several generations of PLU students – teaching books and authors he loves, from nineteenth-century greats like Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman, to twentieth-century writers like William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams, to contemporary post-modern writers like Toni Morrison, Thomas Pynchon, and Dave Eggers.

Dennis’s enormous success as a teacher springs less from his love of great books than from his love of students. He is warmly and genuinely interested in his students’ thoughts, experiences, and feelings, a teacher who welcomes students into college-level inquiry and gets the best out of them. When Dennis, a few years back, addressed graduates at a Commencement ceremony, he characteristically focused his remarks on the lessons he’d learned from his students over the years. He distilled those lessons into wisdom that captures the spirit of Dennis’ profession as a teacher: “I’ve learned to stay curious about the world,
and taken the example of my students’ curiosity to think about most everything I see,” he wrote. “It’s the world right here around you that is always the hardest to see,” he noted, and he exhorted those graduates to stay curious about the everyday people and places in their lives, and about big problems and big ideas: “If you all stay curious about the diseases that plague mankind,” about “why war persists and why so many of our fellow humans go to bed hungry every night,” then “maybe one of you will find new answers to old questions.”

Colleagues of Dennis’s, like myself, who have had the pleasure to share an office suite with him, will miss
the tireless enthusiasm with which Dennis heads off at the start of each new semester, and for each separate class meeting. A teacher, a colleague, a friend, with such talents and such a passion for his calling is a gift, indeed.
– Jim Albrecht (Prism Spring 2012)