Creative Writing

November 16, 2022

Philip Gerard, the longest tenured professor in our department, the keeper of our collective institutional memory, passed away on November 7, 2022. He was 67 years old and taken from us unexpectedly and far too soon. Philip was a stalwart friend, a giving colleague, and a beloved teacher and mentor. I know it is hard for all of us to accept that we will never see him in classes, hallways or our offices again. He was a profound presence here in Kenan Hall.

I admired Philip mightily, both as a writer and a man. As author, he published 16 books of fiction and creative nonfiction, two of which are seminal textbooks used in universities across the nation. He published more than 200 stories and essays in distinguished venues, amassing a highly respected body of work that only a very driven and committed writer could manage. But it was never just about the numbers. Philip’s work always took on ambitious topics--war, politics, racial injustice, history--contributing substantially to our literature both nationally and in North Carolina. Indeed, in 2019, he was honored with the North Carolina Award for Literature, which is the highest civilian honor conferred by the state. But what may be most astounding is that he accomplished all this while serving brilliantly as teacher, mentor and administrator here at UNCW for 33 years.

Philip arrived here in 1989 and quickly turned a fledgling professional and creative writing curriculum into a well-organized, well administered and very popular concentration within the English major. As the track grew and other creative writing faculty were hired, he subsequently was the chief force behind the planning, establishment and coordination of our MFA program in 1996. In 1999, he was instrumental in the establishment of creative writing as an independent department and in the 2000s served for seven-years as department chair.  It is no exaggeration to say that Phillip was at the core of creative writing’s evolution from the very beginning and he continued to serve as a voice for progress until his death. His institutional memory was invaluable. His professional instincts were impeccable. And his understanding of academic politics and policy was vast. In truth, no one contributed more to our department than he did and we would not be where we are if not for his devoted efforts.

It is a heart-breaking loss. We will miss him terribly.

            —Mark Cox


Philip Gerard at microphone photo credit: Jesse Waters