I am more than ever committed to creating spaces where other people can find their voices, where writers can find space and strength to tell the truth as they see it (even if this is in an imagined world). I’d say that writing powerful stories is more important now than it has been at any other point in my lifetime.
Aurelie Sheehan, a beloved and passionate Professor of Creative Writing, passed away on August 3, 2023.
In honor of Aurelie Sheehan's profound impact on her students since joining the faculty at the University of Arizona in 2000, we are honored to announce the Aurelie Sheehan Memorial Scholarship in Creative Writing. Established with a gift from Professor Sheehan’s husband, Reed Karaim, the scholarship is dedicated to supporting undergraduate Creative Writing majors.
Professor Sheehan had a great gift for amplifying student voices. She nurtured student imaginations with intelligence, humor, and care. As Reed Karaim shares, Professor Sheehan “ended nearly every day with a book in her hands.” If it wasn’t a book, it was likely a student manuscript.
Professor Sheehan was not only a generous mentor, but also a generous author. Of her stories, Frederic Tuten has said they have “depth miles beneath their compelling surface. They radiate a wisdom, beauty and originality rare in contemporary fiction."
Her published and widely celebrated books include The Anxiety of Everyday Objects, History Lesson for Girls, Jack Kerouac Is Pregnant, Demigods on Speedway, This Blue, Jewelry Box: A Collection of Histories and Once into the Night.
Former UA colleague and University of Chicago professor Dr. Julie Iromuanya shares that she cherished Professor Sheehan “not only for her disarming calm and presence of mind in the middle of the usual chaos but also because of her friendship. She was always attentive to the needs of everyone around her without losing a grip on her sense of being—as an artist, a creator, and a person of the imagination.” Dr. Leila Hudson, Chair of the UA Faculty and Professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, recalls Professor Sheehan as “a dear friend, dedicated teacher and leader, and a unique, inimitable voice.”
Most poignantly, hundreds of former students have posted tributes to Professor Sheehan and reached out since her death with condolences. They often describe how Professor Sheehan is the very reason they continue to write.
At a celebration of Professor Sheehan’s work at UA later this year, a chapbook of student memories will be available, produced by her close colleagues and friends Professor Ander Monson and Professor Kate Bernheimer. If you have stories to share about Professor Sheehan, you can share them in this Google form until October 1, 2023 for consideration.
The Creative Writing major, housed in the Department of English, hopes to raise $50,000 to endow the scholarship to support undergraduate creative writers in their artistic pursuits as they emerge in the field.
Please donate here. No gift is too small to honor Professor Sheehan’s great legacy, nor the very future of creative writing: our students.
Photo credit: UA Poetry Center