Emeritus Professor Edward Lueders taught at the University of Utah for 24 years
where he directed the Creative Writing Program, chaired the Department of English,
served as editor of the Western Humanities Review, and published 13 books, ranging
from creative nonfiction (including The Clam Lake Papers and The Salt Lake Papers),
to collections of modern verse, critical biographies, translations, and beyond. Still
active and writing at 98, his new book, Living on This Animal Planet: Zodiac Annual
Poems with Papers, is ready for its publisher. On top of all this, he spent 40 years
consulting with secondary school students and teachers as Poet in the Schools throughout
the U.S., India, and Japan. His honors include a Fellowship in Creative Writing from
the National Endowment for the Arts, the 1992 Governor’s Award in the Humanities from
Utah Humanities, and the 1998 Entrada Institute Award for Environmental Education.
At the end of his career, he was appointed the prestigious honor of University Professor.
Edward Lueders’ The Salt Lake Papers, University of Utah Press, 2018.
His creativity, it should be noted, extends far beyond the written word. He has
been playing jazz piano for audiences ever since 1943, when he was drafted into the
US Armed Forces as a special services pianist. He has played at Utah ski resorts,
including years as house pianist at Alta’s Rustler Lodge. He was the dinner pianist
at the Capitol Reef Inn in Torrey, Utah, where he and his wife, Deborah Keniston,
built their retirement home, and volunteered as a lobby pianist for the University
of Utah Hospital.
Former students and community members may also remember Lueders and the late
English Professor Kenneth Eble traveling throughout Utah performing a two-man show
featuring the famed authors Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson. In his yet-to-be-published
memoir, Lueders reflects on his inextricable bond with Eble, who passed too soon,
and their classroom teaching brought to life:
“On the university campus, Ken and I each taught a range of courses. Our overlap was
in American Literature. He especially liked to teach a concentrated single-author
course on the work of Henry David Thoreau. Once when he was deep in the course, I
chided him that he was beginning to look like Henry. In fact in some respects he did.
He was short and compact with a largish head and a nose to match. I kidded him that
he ought to get himself up as Thoreau and teach his class in the guise of his subject.
I didn’t suppose he’d take me seriously, but, always interested in making teaching
techniques more vital, he did. A few days later he told me he’d do it—if I would ‘do’
Ralph Waldo Emerson with him, so that the two worthies, friends associated in life,
could perform a dialogue to be fashioned from their writings. I was teaching a course
on the New England Transcendentalists at the time and had always felt an affinity
with Emerson. So I went for the idea, borrowed a 19th century frock-coat from the
theater department, and played Emerson to his Thoreau.
Ken drafted and I collaborated on a conversational script drawn chiefly from
their books and essays. Ken’s costume was modeled on the frequently published drawing
of Thoreau in a knee-length coat, floppy hat, heavy shoes, and stout walking stick.
To tailor the dialogue for our classes, we devised the script as our responses to
an interview conducted by one of our students for whom we had written in the pertinent
leading questions. Thoreau, as you might imagine, had all the best lines with Waldo
as a kind of witty high-flown straight man. The most popular and challenging part
of the skit came at the end with unrehearsed questions from the audience. By then
we were steeped in our characters’ language and manner. Our professorial familiarity
with our subjects enabled us to ad lib our response faithfully in character.
We performed the skit first for Ken’s Thoreau class. Then we did it for mine.
By then The Salt Lake Tribune learned of our act, and we appeared photographed in
costume with an accompanying write-up on the first page of the local section. That
did it. High schools and colleges in the area began to invite us to perform for their
classes. We were pleased to accept. The Utah Humanities Council caught our act and
booked us under their aegis in libraries and auditoriums all over the state. Word
got around. We were even asked to perform at an educator’s convention in Chicago.
Which we did. We were having a high time with the act. But we were teachers, not actors,
and it was getting out of hand. I returned the Emersonian frock coat to the theater
costume department, we filed the script with our press clippings, and we went back
to our course work and our own writing.
Kenneth Eble died at the height of his career as an outstanding nationally celebrated
educator and author. After a hot game of tennis he sensed the signs of heart attack
and drove himself to the hospital. There he underwent heart surgery from which he
began to rally but then succumbed. Ken was 62. At a grave-side ceremony and again
at a campus-wide memorial, Bill Mulder and I read excerpts from Thoreau’s Walden and
key passages I had chosen from Ken’s own works. The echoes seemed right.”