Monica Berlin

Monica Berlin ’95, the beloved and respected Richard P. & Sophia D. Henke Distinguished Professor of English at Knox College, passed away on November 4, 2022.

A member of the Knox faculty since 1998, Berlin made an enormous and transformative impact through her courses in creative writing, poetry, creative nonfiction, fiction, modern, contemporary, and 21st-century American literature. Berlin received a bachelor of arts degree in creative writing from Knox College in 1995, a master of arts in literature and composition from Western Illinois University in 1998, and a master of fine arts in poetry from Vermont College in 2002.

“Monica will be remembered for the unapologetic commitment and intensity she brought to her work with students, advisees, her colleagues, and writers of all types. The number of students she inspired fills us with awe.” said Michael Schneider, provost and dean of the College.

Berlin was a highly regarded leader on campus and within the Galesburg community in a number of high-visibility roles. She served as chair for the English department, associate director of the creative writing program, and, locally, on the Galesburg Public Library board of trustees.

Many Knox creative writing students remember Berlin’s role as director of the Space, a writing and literary center found in the heart of Galesburg. The Space held many events, including live readings of student portfolios to cap off their creative writing majors. Berlin’s role in directing the Space helped bring all corners of the Knox community together and enjoy the art of the written word.

“Monica’s fierce love for the words, for poetry, her students, her colleagues, the college, and those she held close was mighty. She offered unflinching loyalty, razor-sharp insights, and boundless kindness. She gave the absolute best and inspired the absolute best in all of us, asking only that we hold ourselves honestly to account. And so we must,” said Elizabeth Carlin Metz, Smith V. Brand Distinguished Professor of Theatre and chair of arts administration.

Berlin’s list of professional honors is extensive. She was honored early in her teaching career, being awarded the Philip Green Wright-Lombard College Prize for Distinguished Teaching in 2003. She won the Knox College Young Alumni Achievement Award in 2007, the New Measure Poetry Prize in 2013, the Heartland Poetry Prize in 2015, and was named the winner of the 2018 Crab Orchard Poetry Series Open. Berlin was also named co-winner, with Beth Marzoni ’04, of the 2013 Ellipsis Award and received a finalist award from the Illinois Arts Council in 2005.

Berlin’s poems and essays were published in a number of journals over the years, including Bennington Review, The Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Midwestern Gothic, and more. Berlin published three books, including her most recent release Elsewhere, That Small, a collection of poetry used to address the relentless nature of day-to-day experiences and ordinariness. Berlin also gave over a dozen different live literary presentations around the country.

“I am thinking of Monica’s steady gait, as we walked together with a group of students from Old Main, over the Third Street bridge, to the Sandburg birthplace. A dozen years. I think of her fixing my hood for commencement. Her holding my first-born baby. My holding her baby. Her recipe for almond cupcakes. Her delight in Sunshine’s pinwheel cookies. Her bad Spanish and French, which always cracked me up. Few people on earth were ever more present to me than Monica, on her porch, on the phone, in her poems. Neighbors in Old Main for so many years, cousins in a way, our lives spilled over into each other’s office. We were always testing out new signals to summon each other from behind the wall,” said Nick Regiacorte, associate professor of English and director of creative writing.

Gifts may be made to the Monica Berlin Memorial fund at