Jeff Jeske Memorial Scholarship honors late professor


Fernando Jiménez

The Jeff Jeske Memorial is located in front of Archdale Hall. Jeske passed away on Jan. 23, 2017.//Photo by Fernando Jiménez/The Guilfordian

“Go for the gold” and “error creeps in” are quotes that students who attended Guilford in the last three decades will remember. They both were said by Charles A. Dana Professor of English Jeff Jeske, who passed away on Jan. 23, 2017.

Jeske joined the College in 1986 after getting his doctorate at Kent State University. Throughout his lifetime, he published two books and won several Guilford awards including multiple Dick Dyer awards and the Bruce Stewart Excellence in Teaching award. Jeske also advised The Guilfordian for almost 30 years.

In honor of Jeske’s legacy, the English and creative writing department has created the Jeff Jeske Memorial Scholarship in Journalism and English for English and English and media studies majors.

“Obviously when Jeff passed away we were trying to find ways to honor him,” said Professor of English Jim Hood. “One of the things that we did was plant the tree. That was something that people were interested in. And one of his former students was very interested in donating money for a bench, so now we have the bench out there.

“But we thought that other people might be interested in donating to a scholarship fund in Jeff’s memory. So we didn’t actually advertise it a whole lot, but we got a number of donations.”

Unlike the Sherwood Anderson Creative Writing scholarship, which requires a writing portfolio, students applying for the Jeff Jeske Memorial Scholarship will only need to submit an application.

“There’s not going to be requirements like that because it’s just a one time offer at this point,” said Hood. “It’s just the application, which involves producing a resume and talking about your connection to journalism study or a literary study.”

Both journalism and literature were Jeske’s passion, and he is still greatly missed by other faculty members.

“We would do anything we could possibly do in Jeff’s name,” said Cynthia Nearman, English department chair and assistant professor of English. “I saw it the first day that I ever met him. That he had never gotten jaded or cynical, like he was 100 percent sincere.

“Jeff was one of the first and remains the most powerful example I’ve ever seen of somebody who did what he did with all of his heart, energy and time. He was a teacher and a friend all the way down.”

Former Guilford students are excited to learn about this new opportunity.

“I think it’s a fitting tribute to see Jeff’s name on a scholarship for Guilford English students,” said Ian Penny ’17. “Jeff loved the Quaker community and was a devoted scholar and writer.

“Over his career, I’m sure he molded hundreds of students’ lives, including mine. I wish he could have advised The Guilfordian 29 years longer than he was able. Like any good writer, Jeff never wasted a word and always spoke with purpose. That’s a lesson I hope this memorial scholarship carries forward.”

Former Editor-in-Chief of the Guilfordian, Allison DeBusk ’16, agrees with Penny.

“Jeff embodied so many qualities of a good journalist, even if he never was one,” DeBusk said. “He always stood on the side of justice and sought out fairness and equality. I think a scholarship that will help cultivate those qualities in others is the best way to remember him.”

Jeske’s passion for justice led him to create a relationship between Guilford and the Pulitzer Center, an American news media organization that sponsors independent reporting on global issues.

“Jeff was instrumental in getting the relationship with the Pulitzer Center set up because the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting was interested in reporting stories that were not the ones that are just commercially successful,” said Hood.

“(He) was a news junky, even toward the end when he was within a month or so of his passing, he was watching congressional hearings on C-SPAN and keeping up with CNN all the time. He was adamant about in the journalism class introducing students to alternative forms of media, alternative forms of journalism and less standard journalism outlets.”

Jeske’s passion for journalism inspired his students to fall in love with language.

“I can’t think of anyone who deserves to have their name on an English scholarship more than Jeff Jeske,” said Nicole Zelniker ’17. “At least once a month, he’d come into class with a word or Latin root to define for us, and reminded us the proper pronunciation of the mythical monster ‘Cthulhu’ at least once a semester. Jeff taught us to love words and love what words could do.”

For many, he was more than just a professor in a classroom.

“Jeff believed in me at a time when I didn’t even believe in myself,” said Alayna Bradley ’17. “I still have his handwritten note from when I was accepted into Guilford. His spikey, essential Jeff cursive, welcoming me into the English program. I didn’t know that I’d soon be spending the majority of my time in the Pub Suite.”

Jeske’s legacy will continue to live on not only through the scholarship, but also through the many people he touched during his lifetime.

“I’ve been thinking about Jeff a lot this week,” said Hood. “(He was) one of the most genuine, warm, caring people I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. And I just count myself incredibly fortunate for spending 17 years working with him.”

The deadline for the scholarship is Feb. 7. Students interested in applying should email Cynthia Nearman at [email protected].