DON WELCH BIOGRAPHY
Don Welch (1932-2016) was the author of thirty-three books of poetry that championed Nebraskans, nature, and the imagination. His work suggests that nothing is provincial when your audience is the world. Kearney calligrapher (and friend) Art Pierce illustrated many of these works. Most notably, Don was the winner of seven poetry prizes including the distinguished Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry when judged by William Stafford in 1980.
Along with his sister Sue, Donovan LeRoy Welch was the son of Howard L. Welch and Genevieve B. (Greenslit) Welch. Don graduated from Kearney State Teacher’s College in 1954 where he played on the basketball team and served as treasurer of the student council. Having met his wife Marcia at then KSTC, the two married in the summer of 1953 before he completed his military training the next fall at Ft. Bliss, TX. When Army testing revealed extraordinary intelligence, he was assigned to a domestic post in Chicago for the Counter Intelligence Corps from 1954-56. While teaching English (and speech) at Fort Morgan High School, Colorado (1957-58) he used the GI Bill to complete his MA from the University of Northern Colorado (1957). He taught both English (and French) in Gothenburg, NE (1957-58). He later earned his PhD (with a dissertation on Thoreau’s poetry) from the University of Nebraska—Lincoln (1965).
A beloved and award-winning teacher, he taught at the University of Nebraska at Kearney for over fifty years (1959-2011). Welch was fond of saying that classrooms are small courts where we play some of life’s biggest games. During that time of collaborative competing, he won the distinguished Pratt-Heins Foundation Faculty Award (1988) and then the Teaching Excellence Award of the Board of Trustees of Nebraska State Colleges (1990). He held both the Martin Distinguished Professor of English at UNK (1980-89) and then the inaugural Reynolds Chair as Professor of Poetry (1989-97). The Nebraska Humanities Council recognized his work with the coveted Sower Award (2004). As a result, a bronze statue of Welch has stood on the UNK campus since 2001.
Among a legion of others, his loving wife Marcia and father “Dutch” are key influences reflected throughout works that focus on subjects as diverse as birds, family, and his beloved Platte River. His works also demonstrate that philosophy is born with wings, and poetry gives it feet. As a long-time friend of the Rowe Sanctuary, Don was invited to speak and present his poetry on the day the facility was dedicated on June 29, 2001.