Hallowell Literary Lecture
In his final year as an Upper School English and history teacher, W.D. Ehrhart served as the 21st annual Edward R. Hallowell Literary Lecture speaker. Ehrhart recited several of his poems, and shared the stories that inspired his writing, to a standing-room only audience on April 23. The next day, Ehrhart recited poems to an Upper School assembly and held a masterclass with more than 50 English and history students.
“Giving the Hallowell lecture was a high point – perhaps the high point – of both my career as a teacher, and as a poet,” said Ehrhart.
Ehrhart’s lecture marked the first time a current faculty member was invited to serve as the Hallowell speaker.
“Former students and community members came from far and wide to celebrate W.D Ehrhart's unique poetic voice,” said Tom Stambaugh, English Department Chair. “For years students have responded to the raw power of his honest humanity, and the lecture allowed a wider range of literature enthusiasts to glimpse how he channels love, rage, friendship, and a curious engagement with the world into accessible, searing poems.”
Ehrhart’s lecture featured many of the works he is known for, including those focusing on his time in Vietnam. He also recited poems that provided a look at his life, including his daughter’s childhood, and time spent with friends and family. He also reflected on his time teaching at Haverford. Since 2001, he taught English and history at Haverford. He is retiring at the end of the 2018-19 school year.
W. D. Ehrhart is author of 18 books of poetry and prose, and a dozen poetry chapbooks, as well as editor or co-editor of four anthologies. Since 2001, he has taught English and history at The Haverford School.
A combat-wounded Marine sergeant, Ehrhart has been writing poetry since he was 15 years old. He holds an honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps and a Ph.D. from the University of Wales. He has been awarded the President’s Medal from Veterans for Peace and an Excellence in the Arts Award from Vietnam Veterans of America. His writing has appeared in publications as diverse as American Poetry Review and Virginia Quarterly Review, Reader’s Digest and USA Today, The New York Times and The New Hampshire Gazette. He has been anthologized in books ranging from The New Oxford Book of War Poetry to Proposing on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Ehrhart was a major presence in the 2017 Burns & Novick documentary The Vietnam War, Studs Terkel referred to him as “the poet of the Vietnam War,” and his 1983 memoir Vietnam-Perkasie has never been out of print. While he is best known for his writing about the Vietnam War, his poems and essays reflect a life lived to the fullest, ranging from family and friends to nature and art to drawbridges and tugboats on the Delaware River. He has received fellowships from the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation. As a teacher, he has received Haverford's 2011 Rafael Laserna Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2018 Haligoluk Appreciation.
Ehrhart grew up in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, graduating from Pennridge High School in 1966. He and his wife, Anne, have been married since 1981 and have an adult daughter.
In February 2019, McFarland & Co., Inc., published Thank You for Your Service: Collected Poems of W. D. Ehrhart.
The Haverford School’s Edward R. Hallowell Literary Lecture Series annually brings to campus a distinguished, nationally known author to present a lecture, to spend a day with the students, and participate in informal readings and discussions to inspire an interest in literature. This fund was originally endowed by a gift from a Haverford Trustee, the late Thomas B. McCabe III, and his wife, Anne, parents of Thomas ’00. Additional gifts to the fund continue to be made by many other friends of Mr. Hallowell and the School.