"I close my eyes and I still can hear you talking of Milton, Chaucer and Dr. Johnson."
A former student congratulating Dorothy Snow on being named a Distinguished Alumna of the University of Utah.Dorothy snow's resume is handwritten.
Had she been born a half-century later, perhaps, or been lauded _ as were this year's other Distinguished Alumni _ for success in business, she would have made another choice. She'd have used a computer with laser printer or at the very least an electric typewriter.
But Dr. Snow wrote her resume.
Because she was an English professor for 46 years both her handwriting and grammar are flawless. Precise. Elegant.
So, when the university requested her resume, she acted promptly. She selected a black pen and two sheets of unlined white paper and, sitting at the window of her book-filled study, she set down the facts:
Born _ October 6, 1901
Father _ Clarence Snow
Mother _ Cornelia E. Groesbeck Snow
Then she listed her education at LDS High, the University of Utah, her master's degree from Radcliffe and her doctorate from Berkeley. She mentioned a sabbatical year at Columbia, reading American literature.
Hers has been a scholarly life. Dorothy Snow is a member of Phi Beta Kappa; the Utah Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters; and the Medieval Academy, among others.
She's also been president of the local Harvard Club and chairwoman of the Town Club's house committee. ("The members of the Town Club are intrepid souls," says Dr. Snow. Fifty of them braved a blizzard to hear her give a book review of a Henry James' novel. James is her favorite author; now her fellow clubwomen ride the crest of her esteem.)
She began teaching in the English department at the U. of U. in 1924. "It was a triumph," she says of the promotion to associate professor in 1947. Few women had made it that far then.
And she knew she deserved it. "I had worked hard during those war years. My classes were huge _ mostly women." She also did Red Cross work, edited the literary magazine and even the university's catalog.
However, teaching composition and literature _ the way those courses should be taught _ absorbed most of her time.
Dr. Snow never had a teaching assistant to give her lectures or read student papers. She says, "I always took the roll myself; I tried to get to know my students."
She monitored their progress.
"I taught them, first, that each composition should have a central thought. Second, paragraphs should hang together. I didn't teach grammar except when it was necessary," she says briskly. "I assigned my freshman composition students a one-page paper every day.
"I was an idiot.
"I was looking over my records the other day (I've kept all my roll sheets in the basement), and I saw that one quarter I read 2,000 papers."
Dr. Snow was made full professor in 1952 and professor emerita in 1970, after she retired.
Concluding her resume, she summed up her life in a sentence: "I have been primarily a teacher, interested in my students and their progress."
The years have changed this tall thin woman very little, only turning her red hair gray. Her eyes and hearing haven't dimmed much, her ideals not at all.
She avoids modern literature. "The language offends me. All that sex offends me."
However, she can be persuaded to read certain modern novels. A friend _ whom she refers to formally as "Mrs. J.D. Williams" _ sent her "Cold Sassy Tree." She loved "Ladies of the Club," too, because it reminds her of Cleofan, a women's book club she's belonged to for 50 years. She also says Wallace Stegner's books seem "true"; she taught with him at the U.
As for her students, while their fads and causes may not be her own, Dr. Snow concentrates on their minds and is pleased with every generation.
The most disgusting and shocking behavior she can attribute to any student is plagiarism. And that she remembers in only one. "This boy actually copied an essay from Ralph Waldo Emerson and turned it in. He must have thought I was stupid in the extreme," she says.
In the 80 years she's lived on South Temple _ first and for many years in her parent's home, now in a large apartment _ that gracious street has changed a bit. Dr. Snow has adapted.
In the foyer of her sunny apartment building the furniture, now, is chained to the floor. Another sign of the times: Rock music radiates down through her ceiling from the apartment above. Isn't it distracting? "Oh, no," she says, shrugging. Her foot keeps tapping to the beat as she turns the conversation back to literature.
"Nobody could have been more fortunately situated than I," she says about the time she spent at Berkeley writing her thesis on "an 18th century poet, William Hayley. He was the Edgar Guest of his era."
She lived at the Women's Faculty Club on the campus. There she took all her meals. "Breakfast was 30 cents and dinner was 75 cents so you can tell that was ancient history."
There she met fascinating women. "Mrs. Moses was a 75-year-old widow of a professor. She reminded me of my grandmother. We became very good friends. And when I would excuse myself after dinner to go to my room and write about William Hayley, she'd say, `Are you going up to that man again?'
"When I'd get stuck she'd invite me to her room and give me a cup of tea and ask me to read the part aloud to her. I did and it was always a great help."
Though she says she never planned on having to support herself, she did. "Marriage just never interested me very much." Dr. Snow traces her self-reliance and love of learning through several generations of her "very close" family.
Her grandparents were Erastus Snow and his third wife, Elizabeth, who were sent by Brigham Young to found St. George. She remembers Elizabeth Snow as "a little woman, a New Englander, who had 10 children and was smart as a whip."
From her, Dorothy Snow learned to knit and read at the same time. When she was a junior in high school, Dorothy Snow finished 25 pairs of socks for WWI soldiers and a good many books and says, "It was no trick at all."
Dr. Snow's mother was among the first four-year college graduates at B.Y. Academy. Her father, an electrical engineer and college professor, later became a physician and helped found the Salt Lake Clinic.
Dr. Snow has three younger brothers. Two are medical doctors, retired from the Salt Lake Clinic.
When they were little, she read to them and, they complain, "bossed" them. She says they needed bossing. The siblings are still very close, meeting at her home each Sunday for a good long conversation.
It is pleasant to think of Dorothy Snow on Wednesday evenings. That's when she and Genevieve Atwood read to each other. The two met 12 years ago, introduced by Atwood's father. He knew their ages wouldn't matter. He thought they would delight in each other's company and they do, this retired professor and geologist/former state legislator.
"It was love at first sight," says Dr. Snow.
"She's just my best buddy," says Atwood.
"You know," Atwood says, "I am interested in reclaiming the West. And to me, Dorothy Snow is just like a desert plant. She's fragile yet incredibly tough. She has her roots in Utah.
"We always think there's only one way to live a happy life. To marry and have children. But she's done just great."
Doing just great is one way to summarize her life. Distinguished Alumna is another. But to get at the heart of what sets Dorothy Snow apart, one need do no more than to think of her writing her resume by hand.
Or think of her on Wednesday evenings. That's the time, while the rest of us are idling on the freeway or shoving dinner into the microwave, she sits serenely with her friend, eating cake and reading aloud the well-constructed paragraphs of Henry James.