Colleagues, students and fellow writers join in commemorating Pauline Uchmanowicz

The SUNY New Paltz community came together on Friday, Oct. 18, to remember and celebrate the life of Pauline Uchmanowicz, a beloved and engaged teacher of literature and writing, and an acclaimed poet and scholar, who died on June 1, 2019.

Dozens of friends, mentees and colleagues stepped up to share memories of Pauline’s exceptionally dedicated teaching and mentorship, her enthusiasm for her craft and the remarkable positivity she seemed to bring everywhere she went.

Other speakers read selected poems, including many from Pauline’s own publications, in tribute to one of the great literary minds in the College’s history.

Scroll below for excerpts of remarks given at the Commemoration of Pauline Uchmanowicz, and click here to read more about her distinguished career at SUNY New Paltz.

“Pauline is with us in our love and admiration for her and for her words. We must speak them, speak of and think of her often.

Today reminds me very clearly what Pauline gave us: her generous heart; her knowledge; her strong opinions; her determination; her irreverent humor and joie de vivre; her time; her perfect poems; her truth; her faith in us. The gifts we hold close in her absence, we must now give to others as lovingly as she gave of herself.”

– Joann Deiudicibus ’00, ’03g (English),
composition program assistant and adjunct instructor

“Pauline reminded colleagues and students that writing is hard work. She was brutally honest about everything. I think this functioned as her ethical code. She was the most demanding critic and editor that I’ve worked with, and I’ve worked with quite a few. And of course, she was more demanding of herself than anyone else.

– Patricia Sullivan, director of the Honors Program
and professor of digital media & journalism

“I always looked forward to getting feedback on anything I’d written for Pauline. Her words felt like a gift, something I had earned, that made me feel good about myself, and something that I could keep and look at when I needed it. She instilled such a confidence in me. I always felt, and still feel, that I am striving to be the person and the writer that she saw me as.”

– Robyn Turk ’15 (English; Art History)

“Pauline was a frequent contributor, writing close to 100 articles for Chronogram. She was so unusually kind, so unremittingly generous, I often wondered if she was trying to right the karmic balance for some dastardly deed in her past. But that was just Pauline—she was as empathetic in her writing as she was in person.

“Pauline was also a conduit for a stream of students and recent grads in whom she saw potential. The writers who came to Chronogram via Pauline have contributed hundreds of pieces to the magazine—and continue to do so. She was an ardent champion of promising talent and loved to nurture it.”

– Brian Mahoney, editor of Chronogram

“I learned more about craft from Pauline than from any other teacher. I think I’ll always want to talk with her one more time.”

– Emily Zogbi ’17 (English)

“Above all, I remember her sincerity. Everything that she communicated came from that. That made her remarkable, this secret that she kept to herself. Always to strive, in all situations, to live in the truth of herself, of who she was, essentially: a person of deep sensitivity and caring for humanity. She was a source of conscience for us all.”

– David Applebaum, professor emeritus of philosophy
and founder of Cohill Press, publisher of Pauline Uchmanowicz’s collection, “Sand & Traffic”

“I miss Pauline a lot. That’s a very simple sentence to pronounce and a very hard thing to have to say. Pauline and I came to New Paltz within a year of each other, and we were office neighbors, waiting-for-each-other-at-the-copier buddies, for what seems like an eternity, or at least half a career. She was an absolute fixture in our department and on campus, and she was also a fixture in a wider community of poets and writers and reviewers in the Hudson Valley and beyond.”

– Thomas Olsen, professor of English

“In my junior year, I took Pauline’s graphic lit class. Until I took that course, I was coasting through most classes. So when it came time to write an important paper for her class, I, in my typical, unambitious fashion, wrote it. She saw right through it and returned it without a grade. I went home frustrated, read her comments, went to work the next day brooding, came back that night and read the comments again. And then, of course, I rewrote the paper. Despite all my arrogance, she was right, and I had known it all along.

“I got that last draft back with an ‘A’ I honestly felt like I earned. It was a defining moment in my education. Pauline’s refusal to accept less than my best forced me to change. And it made me realize how dedicated an instructor she was. She could have given me the grade I earned the first time and left it there. But she wanted more. She didn’t beg, demand or threaten like others had done in the past. She simply put it on me to be better and gave me a chance to do it.

“I will miss her terribly, as I know you all will. We know her memory will live on in her students, her colleagues, her art and her accomplishments. She was an amazing teacher, and I’m honored to have known her.”

– Stephen Sobierajski ’10g (English)