Remembering UW-Green Bay Professor Elmer A. Havens

Dr. Elmer A. Havens

Dr. Elmer A. Havens
photo c. late 1990s

Friends, former students and colleagues are invited to share anecdotes at an informal event celebrating former UW-Green Bay Professor Elmer A. Havens’ life. It will be held at Phoenix Room of the University Union, UW-Green Bay, from 1 to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. The family asks that no flowers, memorials or gifts be sent. His obituary follows:

The Reverend Doctor Professor Emeritus Elmer A. Havens, 87, Green Bay, died November 22, 2016.  Born May 19, 1929 in Jackson, Mississippi to Salvation Army officers, Elmer was the eldest of six brothers and sisters.  Due to the nature of his parents’ occupations, his family moved often throughout the South, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeastern United States.  Elmer’s fondest memories were that of Kingston, New York—where he graduated valedictorian from Kingston High School in 1947.

Elmer developed his love for literature early and read his first book, Treasure Island, at age 6. As a teen, Elmer frequently cared for his younger siblings, and enjoyed reading children classics to them.  Although Elmer’s parents (Elmer C. and Edith J. Havens) were not formally educated beyond high school, they encouraged Elmer to fulfill his dreams and to pursue higher education.

In 1951, Elmer graduated with a BA from Cornell College in Mt Vernon, Iowa.  Later, he married (1951-1989) his college sweetheart (the late Dorothy Havens), and they moved to Madison, New Jersey.  In 1954 Elmer earned a BD from Drew Theological Seminary, and after having served 3 small Methodist churches in Appalachia for a year, he and Dorothy returned to the Midwest. Teaching, he realized, was his true calling. From UW Madison, Elmer continued his studies in English Literature and earned a MA in 1956, and a PhD in 1965.

In the 1960s, composition, American and English Literature were among his first courses taught with the UW Centers in Menasha and Green Bay.  In July 1966, Elmer received a state-wide recognition award (Johnson Foundation Award) for his excellence in teaching, research and faculty government.  Havens had been elected chairman (1965) of a policy making committee for the UW Centers, and also served on the University Faculty Council for the entire university system.  Havens helped to found UW-Green Bay.

In the late 1960s, Havens was hired by UWGB as a professor where he taught for over 30 years.  In December 2001, Elmer retired and was granted emeritus status.  Throughout his  career at UWGB, Havens continued to be involved in the governing aspects of the university; he served on various committees, was Secretary of the Faculty, and assisted in the hiring of faculty members.  In 1993, Havens was selected through a UWGB committee and recognized with the Founders Association Award for Excellence in teaching.

Elmer believed that teaching was an art form; a teacher could make as much or as little out of his or her courses as he or she wanted.  Although Havens truly loved to teach all his courses, he particularly enjoyed the January interim courses due to the focus on one course and the nature of its intensity.  In the college classroom, Havens had certain student expectations for success: keep up with the extensive coursework readings, attend {dynamic, and thoroughly prepared} lectures, and compose well-written blue-book exams. Students who applied themselves frequently returned for other courses taught by Dr. Havens.

Throughout his career and into retirement, Havens taught outside the classroom at local churches, various social organizations, community outreach programs, and a correctional facility.  His retirement years allowed him the freedom to be a volunteer reader to local school children, to enjoy long breakfasts and politically charged conversations with his “breakfast club” buddies at the Allouez Cafe, to travel, and to reconnect with friends and family.  Retirement was also the platform from which he embarked on his other dream–to become a novelist, of which he accomplished.

Elmer is survived by his children, grandchildren, 3 younger siblings, many relatives, and friends.

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