Alumni Achievement Award Winner
English Department Chair, Stillman College
Major: Creative Writing
As a sophomore at Knox College, Norman Golar was chosen for the selective
Ronald E. McNair Program, which encourages first-generation college
students and members of underrepresented groups to pursue careers in higher education. Ten years later, Golar, who graduated from Knox in 2002 with a degree in creative writing, accepted a position as assistant professor of English and chair of the English department at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. "The McNair experience allowed me to know rather than feel that I belonged in higher education, in academia," says Golar.
Before accepting the position at Stillman, Golar pursued his MFA in creative writing and his Ph.D. in composition, rhetoric, and English studies from the University of Alabama. His poetry has been published in numerous poetry journals, including Touchstone, Temenos, and Poetry Southeast, and he was chosen as a Southern Regional Education Board Doctoral Scholar, a national program that provides support and encouragement for minorities pursuing Ph.D.s and seeking faculty positions.
In February 2012, Golar was recognized by the College with an Alumni Achievement Award for his achievements in higher education and writing.
Describe your Knox experience.
Although the Knox community seemed small, the College's "Freedom to Flourish" campaign proved to be a motto that I and other Knox students learned to demonstrate. Because we were "free" to express ourselves (decorating our Commencement caps and streaking in the Knox Bowl), our creativity sprawled into other facets of our college experiences. For instance, some of us understood "diversity" to mean, "look beneath the skin tone, the regional origins, the cultural origins in order to bond and grow within each other's shadow." Organizations like Allied Blacks for Liberty and Equality (A.B.L.E.), Harambee, Lo Nuestro, and Real African Men Standing Up (R.A.M.S.U.) bridged what once were culture-shocks but later commonalities.
Knox College was more than my trips to Old Main to talk with Professor Beth Ann Fennelly (who now teaches at Ole Miss), Audrey Petty '90 (another former Knox faculty who guided my first McNair summer research), Robin Metz (director of the creative writing program), Monica Berlin '95 (the first professor who whipped me into "writer-ly" shape) and Xavier Romano (former Dean of Students who still serves as my unofficial mentor and advisor). Knox College was the International Fair; residing in Tompkins and Raub Halls; it was the mecca of enriched conversations with Pinky (Gibbons) and Henry (Wooten), representatives from dining services; it was a world where (former) President Roger Taylor '63 and First Lady Anne Taylor '63 rolled up their sleeves to wash dishes in the cafeteria. Overall, my experience was the rainbow God every so often watermarked across those sunlit memories I continue to smile about.
How has that experience affected your life?
Among the many Knox attributes I have learned and practiced while a Knox student, I have to say I most value the meaning of close-knit relationships. Some of my friends from my graduating class may recall my personal interest, as a freshman, to meet every other freshmen admitted to the college. The beauty of the campus ignited my vibrant personality and my desire to form bonds and friendships with individuals from communities, regions, and countries different from my own.
Today, I find myself at Stillman College -- a mirror image of the memories I formed while at Knox; the difference: I am a faculty member having to mentor, advise, and teach students who remind me of myself -- those mini-me's who receive the blessings and who take on the responsibilities that come with being first generation college students. More important, I have the same desire now as a faculty member that I had as an undergraduate: I strive to build strong working relations with not only my colleagues and administrators, but also students and staff members. Knox introduced me to such warm connections and welcoming gestures that I try to emulate day-to-day.
What do you believe is your most notable achievement?
This is a tough one to answer. I guess I would have to say that my most notable achievement has to be the moment my wife and I gave our lives to Christ as newlyweds. I know that my having to awaken has everything to do with my Lord and Savior, Jesus. Of course, any person could say that my most notable achievement has to be when I accepted the chair's position of the Department of English at Stillman College. However, I know even that position was provided to me through Him.
What words of advice would you offer to current Knox students?
Dear Knox students, allow your experiences to be just that, your experiences. Many of us can sit and converse with you about how things were when we were at Knox or how we accomplished x, y, and z while certain administrative staff and/or faculty supported us, but those stories are what inspired us to carry out our dreams, to pursue the unthinkable, or to relish those unforgettable moments that currently remind us how to aid others. So, definitely allow your experiences to be your experiences: whenever we have time to talk, we could laugh just as hard as you may laugh due to our unique stories we tell to one another.