Archive for the tag 'Jack Oruch'

Remembering Jack Oruch

July 4th, 2013

The initial news from Jim Carothers:
Dear Colleagues:  I regret to inform you of the passing of Emeritus colleague Jack Oruch on June 6 in Ohio.  Jack came to the University in 1963 and retired in 1997.  He was Chair of the Majors Committee, a predecessor of the current Director of Undergraduate Studies position, and also served as Associate Chair.  His teaching often focused on Shakespeare and on the Freshman-Sophomore Honors courses.  Jack is invariably recalled by those who knew him as a kind, gentle, and friendly colleague, and a hard worker for his students and for all of us.  Elaine Oruch would be happy to hear from colleagues and friends, and she says “the written word is beautiful.”
(Elaine Oruch, 586 Pine Grove Place, Gahanna, Ohio 43230)

From Amy Devitt:
What a wonderful colleague Jack was. I am sorry to hear the news and sorry that so many of you did not get the chance to know him.

From Iris Smith Fischer:
Jack was indeed a wonderful colleague and a very fine Associate Chair.

From Richard Hardin:
Jack and I were friends from the start when I came to KU three years after him. We were the only people in Kansas who had read Drayton’s Poly-Okbion. He was then chair of our undergrad honors program and gave our honors students a sense of belonging somewhere in a huge university of 16,000 students, e.g. with the newsletter he called ‘The Weakly Reader.’ I still encounter students from long ago who remember his Shakespeare and Chaucer courses. A sweet guy.

From Dick Eversole:
The night before I learned of his death, I had a pleasing and vivid dream of Jack as a young man.  He was smiling and happy and dressed ready to teach.  It felt like a gift.  He was indeed a sweet guy and I was very close to him.  As others have said, he was always generous with his time and affection–a good friend.

From Vic Contoski:
I remember Jack’s kindness.  Whenever I would take my wife Dzidka up to the Mayo Clinic, he always called the night before to wish us well.  What a privilege to know him!

From Paul Stephen Lim:
I’m still trying to process the news of Jack’s demise. The first thing I thought of, actually, was a line from Shakespeare’s RICHARD II, which I first read when I took an undergraduate Shakespeare class from Jack in 1969: “For God’s sake, let us sit upon the ground and tell sad stories of the death of kings…”
As many others have already noted, Jack was the sweetest, the gentlest, the kindest person it was ever our fortune to meet and call our friend. During the early years of English Alternative Theatre (EAT) in 1989-1992, before I acquired my own truck, I relied primarily on Jack’s truck to help us transport our sets, furniture, props, costumes.  Not only did Jack provide the trusty truck, but he also drove, and helped to carry things with the rest of the crew! Those were the days, when all our backs were still strong and capable of bearing burdensome loads. Jack’s departure from our midst is a burden we will continue to bear gladly for as long as memory is still with us.

From Mary Davidson:
I wrote to Elaine by snail-mail….Contoski’s and your posts were moving. Oruch and Hardin were among the most honest and generous administrators the Department ever had.


Farewell, My Lovelies…

May 10th, 2011

On the afternoon of 9 May 2011, the English Department of the University of Kansas gave a festive “milestones celebration” in the North Gallery of the Spencer Research Library for three of its new retirees, presided by Chair Marta Caminero-Santangelo, and organized by Administrative Assistant Robert Elliott.  The retirees (Mike Johnson, Jim Hartman and I) were expected to say a few words. Here’s what I prepared for the occasion.

Many, if not most, of the people here know me as, until recently, the one and only person who has been teaching playwriting in the English Department since 1989, the same year I founded English Alternative Theatre to nurture, develop and produce the plays being written by my students.  But, my history with the department goes all the way back to spring of 1969, and not many people here know how I came to be at KU, so I thought I might share the story with everyone present.

These days, if I am filled with feelings I cannot begin to describe when I’m watching the hit television series MAD MEN, it’s because I lived through the same exciting period in the 1960s as an advertising copywriter for J. Walter Thompson in the Philippines.  Many of the ad campaigns that I worked on had won various industry awards, and my colleagues in Manila thought I was “good enough” to make it on Madison Avenue in New York.

Thus, travelling on just a tourist visa, I left for the United States with my hefty portfolio in June of 1968.  To my disappointment, after they looked at my portfolio, the people at J. Walter Thompson in New York said that, ironically, I had too much experience.  They were only interested in hiring cheaper, beginning copywriters.  They suggested I try my luck with employment agencies, which I did, and they in turn told me that I could lie about my experience and start at $18,000 a year, or else I could sit and wait for a $30,000 job to open up at one of the ad agencies in the city.  Not wanting to sell myself short, I chose to wait.

Day after day, I sat by the telephone, waiting.  Nothing.  Six months went by, and I began to worry, because my tourist visa was running out.  I had only two options.  I could be deported as an illegal alien, returning to Manila with that damned portfolio, my tail between my legs, or I could exchange my tourist visa for a student visa.  And then I remembered that, back in 1964, I had met a peripatetic historian from the University of Kansas, who had been in the Philippines first as a soldier during World War II, then as a Fulbright scholar, then as a frequent visitor in the course of his academic research.  Although I did not have any of my college transcripts from Manila with me, I turned to Grant Goodman to convince the registrar at KU to accept me as a foreign student.  And, believe it or not, that’s how I ended up in Lawrence, Kansas.

As a side note, two weeks before I left the East Coast for the Midwest, the telephone finally rang, not once, but twice, with lucrative job offers from The Wall Street Journal and from Alka-Seltzer, both of whom were starting their own in-house agencies, and they were interested in someone with my background and qualifications.

Too late.

I had dropped out of school after two years of college in Manila because I was bored with my teachers, but now I felt I was ready to reenter the groves of academe.  Had I gone to work for either The Wall Street Journal or Alka-Seltzer in New York, I would not have had the joy of studying with, among many others, Ed Wolfe, Ed Ruhe, Ed Grier, Paul Kendall, John Bush Jones, Jack Oruch, Max Sutton, Hal Orel, Beverly Boyd, George Worth and Jim Hartman.  I would not have formed lasting personal friendships with, among others, such wonderful colleagues in the department as Carolyn Doty, Bud Hirsch, Mary Davidson, Mary Catherine Davidson, Jim Carothers, David Bergeron, Geraldo Sousa, Amy Devitt, Dick Hardin, Bill Scott, Bob and Dorice Elliott, Marta Caminero-Santangelo, Brian Daldorph and Phil Wedge.

When Grant Goodman himself retired from the History Department 22 years ago, he let it be known that he did not want to be presented with an autographed 8 x 10 glossy of then-KU Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs Judith Ramaley, a position which, incidentally, no longer exists in Strong Hall.  I’ve never met our new Provost, so I don’t think there’s any danger of my receiving an autographed 8 x 10 glossy from him.  Truthfully, I am quite happy with all the pictures in my mind’s eye, of everyone I’ve named, of everyone here today, to say nothing of all the wonderful student playwrights, actors and designers I’ve been fortunate to work with through English Alternative Theatre, to remind me that the journey has been worthwhile.  Indeed, it has all been more than worthwhile.

These days, given the economy, I’m thankful I never got into the habit of reading The Wall Street Journal, so there is no reason for me to imbibe the “plop plop, fizz fizz” of an Alka-Seltzer.  Actually, I’ve never in my life ever had an Alka-Seltzer, not even the mornings after the nights of heavy drinking after some of our more memorable and sometimes even deplorable departmental meetings.  I hope I live long enough to tell all the steamy stories on my website at

Thank you for the memories, one and all, everyone.  A special thank you, too, to all my friends and colleagues who have given so generously to the KU Endowment Association for the annual Paul Stephen Lim Asian-American Playwriting Award which has been established by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival.