Dr. Philip Heldrich, an associate professor in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, died Thursday, Nov. 11, after a battle with cancer. He was 45.
Heldrich was an award-winning author and poet and advisor of the Tahoma West student literary and arts magazine. He joined the UW Tacoma faculty in 2004 and was on sabbatical this quarter.
"I know I speak for the entire UW Tacoma community in saying that Phil's loss will leave a tremendous void," UW Tacoma Chancellor Pat Spakes said. "I hope we can find some consolation in the fact that every time we see a copy of Tahoma West, we'll remember Phil and the wonderful legacy he left for us and for our students."
Colleagues say Heldrich was popular and developed close relationships with his students. Fellow Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences faculty member Beth Kalikoff, also a writing teacher, said Heldrich was a dedicated, passionate teacher and writer.
“He was a learned, droll, and inventive essayist; a thoughtful scholar; a moving poet. I saved most of his emails because he was also an elegant, sly, and ferocious rhetorician. When he begged to differ, his emails were more illuminating and fun than anyone else's agreement.”
In 2009, Heldrich told Terrain, UW Tacoma’s alumni magazine, that his writing often took a back seat to teaching; his students came first.
"About my teaching," he once explained, "there is nothing more pleasing than to watch my students grow intellectually and as contributors to their communities on and off campus. They often surprise themselves in the process. Sometimes, I provide them with confidence, while other times I push them in new directions. A central tenet of my teaching is to help students to achieve beyond what they've even imagined for themselves."
Heldrich was the author of two award-winning books, Out Here in the Out There: Essays in a Region of Superlatives (2005), winner of the Mid-List Press First Series Award for Creative Nonfiction, and Good Friday (Texas Review Press, 2000), winner of the X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize. His fiction has also been widely published in such journals and anthologies as North American Review, Southwestern American Literature, Texas Bound III: 22 Texas Stories, and Our Working Lives: Short Stories of People and Work. His literary criticism and reviews with interests in Native American literatures and twentieth-century poetry and fiction have appeared in such journals as Studies in Short Fiction, The Southern Quarterly, Great Plains Quarterly, American Indian Culture and Research Journal (AICRJ), and others.
Heldrich also directed the Southwest/Texas Popular and American Culture Associations (SW/TX PCA/ACA), co-organized their yearly conference, and chaired areas in "Creative Writing Pedagogy" and "Literature, Ecocriticism, and the Environment." For seven years, he directed the Bluestem Press, which sponsors the nationally acclaimed Bluestem Poetry Award.
Heldrich is survived by his wife and daughter. A memorial event is being planned on the UW Tacoma campus.