In Memoriam: Colleen J. McElroy, 1935-2023

Colleen McElroy, a nationally recognized poet and the first Black woman to serve as a full-time faculty member at the University of Washington, died on December 12 in Seattle. She was 88 years old.

A native of St. Louis, Dr. McElroy received an associate’s degree at what is now Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis. She held a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in speech pathology from Kansas State University. She later earned a Ph.D. in ethnolinguistic patterns of dialect differences and oral traditions from the University of Washington.

In 1965, Dr. McElroy joined the speech pathology faculty at what is now Western Washington University. In 1983, Dr. McElroy became the first Black woman to serve as a full-time faculty member at the University of Washington. From 1995 to 2007, Professor McElroy served as editor of The Seattle Review, a literary magazine based at the university.

In 1985, Dr. McElroy won the American Book Award for her poetry collection Queen of the Ebony Isles (Wesleyan University Press, 1984). In 2008, she won the PEN Oakland National Literary Award for her poetry collection Sleeping With the Moon (University of Illinois Press, 2007). She was also the author of the memoir A Long Way from St. Louie (Coffee House Press, 1997).

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