After 31 years as an English professor at Suffolk University, Fred Marchant’s influence lives large across campus.
In addition to teaching and publishing four books of his own poetry, the emeritus professor wrote the lyrics to the university alma mater and started Suffolk’s Creative Writing program. He also founded the Poetry Center, an endeavor to encourage the study and practice of poetry at Suffolk that is home to the Zieman Poetry Collection, a collection of poems about Boston by philanthropist Irving Zieman.
Friends, colleagues, and former students gathered to pay tribute to Marchant at “Day One: A night of readings, remarks, and riffs to launch the Suffolk University Poetry Project.”
More than 30 people appeared on stage at Suffolk’s C. Walsh Theatre in front of a packed house and Marchant himself. They shared their fond memories of Marchant’s tenure in the classroom at Suffolk, as well as some good-natured roasting of their favorite professor. Some read Marchant’s own poems, others read works of their own, and there were even a few video contributions from afar.
The overwhelming theme was how much each person owes to the support and encouragement of Marchant.
- Marilyn Plotkins, the longtime chair of the theatre department, gave an introduction at the start of the evening, crediting Marchant with encouraging her to apply for a position at Suffolk. “I owe my professional life here at Suffolk to Fred.”
- Audrey Mardavich '06 recalled her initial foray into poetry in Marchant’s class. “Fred introduced me to the world of poetry, and I wanted to be a part of that. I realized that this is my world, these are my people, and I wouldn’t have discovered it without him.”
- Chris Siteman BA ’03 JD ‘13 told Marchant, “You showed me how to sharpen my pen,” before delivering a poem he wrote in honor of the occasion to rousing applause from the audience.
- Marchant inspired Beth Woodcome Platow ‘98 to become a teacher herself. Looking back, she says, “Every good thing in my life, I can trace back to Fred Marchant. You get a sense simply from knowing Fred that everything is going to be all right.”
- D. Quentin Miller, Chair of the English department, wrote a haiku in his colleague’s honor:
Haiku Never Finished (For Fred)
How am I to say
In seventeen syllables
How much you mean to…
The Poetry Project
Though Marchant is now retired, that does not mean he is reducing his involvement at Suffolk. CAS Dean Kenneth Greenberg announced at the Day One event that Marchant will be the inaugural director of the newly launched Poetry Project. The event also served as a fundraiser to support the Poetry Project.
The Poetry Project will amplify the already vibrant place that poetry holds at Suffolk. The project will provide a platform for poets in both the Suffolk and greater Boston community through readings, conversations with writers, writing retreats, conferences, and symposiums. Marchant is also gathering a world-class, digital collection of poetry, which will be housed in the Poetry Center.