Dr. David Gratz, Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc, has decided to put his grade book away for the last time and retire after teaching for 37 years, with 35 of those years being on the Manitowoc campus.
Gratz began teaching in the UW Colleges in 1976 at UW-Fond du Lac as a lecturer shortly after earning his doctorate in English Literature from Syracuse University. He had previously earned a bachelor’s degree from Wesleyan University and a master’s from Syracuse. Gratz came to UW-Manitowoc in 1978 when a tenure-track position opened up.
While many professors may see a small campus like UW-Manitowoc as simply a stepping stone, Gratz said he never felt that way. “I was hoping to stay here for my career, settle into the community and raise a family.” He did more than stay and raise a family – he became immersed in the community and took on leadership roles. Gratz served on the Manitowoc Public School Board, including a term as president, and continues to serve on the Manitowoc Public Library Board of Trustees, where he’s served as president for several years.
Gratz also became very involved in campus and institutional governance and administration. He chaired many campus committees, served as Associate Campus Dean, was a member of the UW Colleges English Department Executive Committee and a member of the UW Colleges Senate. His participation in both university and community governance stems from his belief that change doesn’t happen while sitting on the sidelines. “I have always felt that rather than complaining about how other people ran things, we should step up and take as much control as we can of our own lives and situations,” he explains.
Looking back on his career, he notes the not much has really changed in regards to teaching the discipline of English. “We still read and discuss literature, students write papers and I grade them.” The students, he adds, are also much the same. “We have always served a variety of students with a range of backgrounds on the UW-Manitowoc campus.” Over the years he has taught many composition and literature courses including: British Literature; Shakespeare; Multi-Cultural Literature; Drama--Comedies; and Kings, Beasts, and Heroes, a course he designed to trace the importance of fairy tale motifs through European literature. He was also for many years in charge of a campus interdisciplinary course on the Western Paradigm.
For many years, Gratz has served as the governance expert and has been somewhat of a campus historian – a resource which will surely be missed. “While he is second to none in his knowledge of UW Colleges shared governance, official policies and protocols, Dave’s signature contribution at UW-Manitowoc is his service to students as a consummate literature professor,” says Charles Clark, UW-Manitowoc Campus Executive Officer/Dean. “Students have always come first for Dave, but he has also served as a wonderful advocate and representative of UW-Manitowoc in our community.”
When asked if anything in particular about his career stood out, Gratz said that teaching was always the central focus, but added that he’s also proud of the work he did over the years in governance and administration. As for the next chapter in his life, Gratz says he first plans to relax. After that, he says it will be nice to travel with his wife, Linda, whenever they want. And of course he will now have more time to read the many books he has had to postpone while he was working.