A research project by three Saginaw Valley State University students is helping bring light to the history of Theodore Roethke, a Saginaw native and one of the greatest American poets of the 20th century.
Their work contributed to the success of a series of open houses at the Roethke House and Stone House Thursday, August 12 – Saturday, August 14.
Ethan Alt, a creative writing major from Chesterfield Township; Madeline Bruessow, an English major from Kawkawlin; and Amber Campbell, a history major from St. Louis; conducted the research projects under the supervision of Sherrin Frances, SVSU professor of English and a member of the Friends of Roethke Foundation board of directors.
Frances teaches a class in the English department that introduces students to archival work and small museums.
She said the students spent the winter semester cataloging the Theodore Roethke Museum’s collection.
In the spring, they developed a new museum tour and trained local high school students as tour guides.
“The work was funded by two generous grants awarded by SVSU’s Undergraduate Research Program,” Frances said, “one to catalog the collection in specialized museum software and another for interpretive planning, which let the students put their deep catalog knowledge into practice creating exhibits and writing the tour narrative.”
Additionally, six students in SVSU’s College of Education created literacy activities inspired by Roethke’s poetry, which they shared with children during the open house on Saturday.
Five of the students are elementary education majors: Alyssa Crawford and Caitlynn Hancock, each of Midland, Anna Plotkowski of Clinton Township, Kimble Darbee of Bay City, and Alexis Dropps of White Lake.
Jonathan Livermore, an English education major from Bay City, also worked on the literacy activities.
“The Roethke House and Stone House are an important part of Saginaw’s story, and they provide a place where visitors can feel inspired by the power of poetry and the power of writing,” said Frances.
He adds “Local access to the small home museum for a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet offers tremendous opportunities for SVSU students who want to be writers, historians, archivists, curators, teachers, or so many other professions within the humanities.”
The open houses were hosted by the Friends of Theodore Roethke Foundation, a nonprofit organization committed to promoting, preserving and protecting the literary legacy of Theodore Roethke by restoring his family residences for cultural and educational opportunities.
The Roethke House, at 1805 Gratiot Ave. in Saginaw, was Roethke’s childhood home.
The Stone House, adjacent to the Roethke House at 1759 Gratiot, was owned by Roethke’s uncle.
Frances said “We are fortunate to have such a resource in our area […] We are even more fortunate that the Houses are supported by our community and that SVSU facilitates and funds formal research projects and internships.”