Friday, December 21, 2012

Not Your Average Book Club

What do you do after a long and honored career as a college literature professor? If you are Dr. William Fry (Bill), you move to Tucson, Arizona and you start a library program where you can continue to share your knowledge.

Bill volunteers at the Oro Valley branch of the Pima County Public Library system, and has since its opening in 2002. He directs a program called Great Literature of All Time. And no, it’s not just a book club.

Dr. William Fry reading aloud from
Ring Lardner's "The Haircut"
Through the program Bill shares and promotes authors who are under-recognized, such as Ring Lardner, Aleksander Pushkin, and Edna Ferber. Oftentimes he introduces authors for the first time, which is no small feat because almost half of the attendees are former English teachers and professors. 

The program gives the Oro Valley community an intellectual outlet to share their passion for lifelong learning, and is more of a college-level seminar than a book club. Dr. Kathleen Assar, former Vice President of Pima Community College, has been attending the program every month. She said the program is “ opportunity for me to exercise the intellectual part of me that is so very important to my life.” 

Bill has inspired many people to keep literature and learning in their lives. One such person, is Marion Doane, a retired English teacher. Marion has been attending the program since the beginning and was inspired to start her own program called Leading Ladies of Literature...And Some Men, Too. 

The format for the Great Literature of All Time program is markedly different than an average book club. To prepare for each session Bill researches biographies for background information and shaping influences in the author’s life and shares that information with his fellow readers. He also reads aloud from the assigned readings, which the group enjoys. Bill believes that reading aloud shares a different perspective and he stated, “I love oral 
interpretation of literature."

September's author
Bill has loved literature and hearing it read aloud since he was a small boy. He remembers listening to his mother read Huckleberry Finn before he was in kindergarten and his passion grew from there. As a professor for many years, Bill was able to share his passion for the written word with his students and colleagues. Now he continues that mission at the library.  He stated, “I watched the Oro Valley library being constructed, and knew I wanted to be a part of the library community.”

Bill taught literature and writing at a Maryland college for more than thirty years and served as Chair of the Literature Department. His teaching expertise brought him many awards including Outstanding Professor for the State of Maryland, Professor of the Year Award in 1990, a national award from Who’s Who among America’s Teachers and a nomination as Outstanding Educator from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. In 2010, Bill won the prestigious Julianna Yoder Friend of the Humanities Award given by the Arizona Humanities Council for his outstanding teaching of literature for the Oro Valley Public Library and for The Learning Curve, an independent art and humanities series in Tucson.

In addition to his teaching, Bill has published numerous articles for academic periodicals and developed a series of literary travel-study tours, both domestic and international. Since retiring to Oro Valley in 2001, he has designed and taught many humanities programs as well as designing and leading literary tours for CRIZMAC, an art and cultural educational publishing company that offers domestic and international tours and seminars.

Bill’s experience, knowledge and passion have helped him create an amazing literature program at the Oro Valley branch that provides intellectual challenge, unique readings, quality discussions and a chance for Oro Valley residents to spend time with like-minded people.  The program is a real commitment and a real challenge. Richard Johnson, Financial Advisor for Merrill Lynch with a degree in English literature, says the readings and the time spent with the group provide magic every month, because, "The artists tell us something about themselves."

Written by Samantha Barry


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