UA Little Rock Professor Emeritus Paul Yoder passed away Oct. 29 in Little Rock, where he was surrounded by his family. Dr. Yoder retired from the Department of English in 2017 after a quarter century as a professor at UA Little Rock.
“Among the many qualities I cherish about Paul is his passionate generosity, as a scholar, a mentor, a teacher, a friend,” said Dr. Kris McAbee, co-director of the School of Literary and Performing Arts. “He shared ideas openly without pretense or condescension. He adored teaching and was as proud of his university teaching award as his wide-ranging and innovative scholarship. I know many of you share in the sorrow his family, colleagues, and students feel at this loss.”
Dr. Yoder earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Louisiana State University and a master’s degree in English from Ohio State University. After earning his Ph.D. in English from Duke University, Yoder accepted a faculty position at UA Little Rock, where he would stay until he retired in 2017. Dr. Yoder, or “Doc” as he was affectionately known by his students, was well loved by his students for his insightful teaching and mentorship
“I earned my M.A. in English and was a high school and college English teacher for 13 years because of him,” said Heather Newsam, director of teacher licensure and placement. “Like all great teachers and mentors, his impact on my life was immeasurable. Because I became a teacher as well, his legacy lives on in my students.”
Dr. Edward Anson, a professor of history who worked with Dr. Yoder for his entire career at UA Little Rock, remembered him as being a productive scholar who applied his research to his teaching and instilled both with his infectious enthusiasm.
“He was also a staunch advocate for faculty rights alongside faculty excellence,” Anson said. “We were both senators who mostly agreed on issues although not regarding Thanksgiving and fall break if I remember correctly. I was sorry to see him retire for he brought so much to UA Little Rock and very sad to hear of his passing.”
As one of the original members of the Core Council, Dr. Yoder taught his fellow committee members about the value of humanities.
“Paul’s devotion and commitment to his family come up repeatedly in conversations among members of the Core Council (university curriculum committee),” said Dr. Belinda Blevins-Knabe, a professor of psychology. “Paul was a master teacher with a strong commitment to teaching and learning. When he described his teaching, the best practices and principles of good teaching and assessment were apparent. The irony was that assessment terms such as ‘learning objectives’ mystified him.”
Dr. Yoder had a strong research interest in English Romanticism, including William Blake, John Milton, and Bob Dylan. Dr. Floyd Martin, professor emeritus of art, remembers co-teaching an interdisciplinary course called “The Sister Arts: British Art and Literature 1750-1850.”
“I found it rewarding because I learned so much from Paul both from his lectures and from the planning discussions we had,” Martin said. “Later, when I learned he was doing a whole course on John Milton, I signed up to audit, and that was a wonderful experience for me, since Milton subjects show up so much in British art. Just this spring, Paul helped on a Donaghey Scholars senior project I supervised, on works by Blake, and as usual he brought good insight and suggestions to the student. One of the things I’ll remember about him is his enthusiasm for the subject at hand, his thorough knowledge, and his ability to lead students along a path to more engagement and better understanding.”