by Doug Hesse, University of Denver
Lou (Louise B.) Kelly was the director of what used to be called the Writing Lab at The University of Iowa, from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. A couple generations of us had the great opportunity to work with her, learning about student centered pedagogies, which she encapsulated in her 1972 book From Dialogue to Discourse: An Open Approach to Competence and Creativity.
Lou was also one of the most passionate advocates I know. More than once I remember seeing her on the steps of the Old Capitol building, bullhorn in hand, railing against an administrative decision or a US policy. She was one of the few faculty on campus who could get Hayden Fry (famous football coach) to return her phone calls.
In 2010, when Lou was merely 91, I joined several of her other Writing Lab teaching alumni in Iowa City for a dinner honoring Lou. Ken Smith and others collected a number of short essays written in honor of the occasion into a small memory book, Voices from the Writing Lab, echoing the compilations of student writing that Lou used to put together.
Was Lou a towering figure in the annals of composition studies? Though she shows up on the timeline of the age, in a significant fashion, perhaps not. To those who worked with and learned from her, Lou Kelly was the embodiment of the committed teacher who lent her zeal to students, basic writers to PhD.
Lou was 94 when she died at home on Monday, February 10, 2014, having lived a grand life long retired from the profession.
Editor’s Note: Voices from the Writing Lab can be purchased at http://www.lulu.com/us/en/shop/lou-kelly-celebrants/voices-from-the-writing-lab/paperback/product-20286601.html .