Sarah Jo Mayville
Memorial Ceremony was held Tuesday, December 3, 10:00-12:00, deCerteau Room (Literature Building Room 155).
Sarah was born and raised in Escanaba, a small town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Her passion for books and learning began with childhood trips to the local library. Her father recalls the moment she told him that she wanted always to be in school, a plan that structured the rest of her too-brief life. After graduating from Escanaba High School she received her B. A. from Kalamazoo College, then completed two masters' degrees. At University of Pennsylvania she earned a M. S. degree in Education, Secondary English, and Urban Education. She then joined Teach for America and for the next two years taught high school English at Mariana Bracetti Academy Charter High School, an inner-city Philadelphia school. At the end of her contract, when she left Mariana Bracetti, she promised her students that she would attend their graduation, a promise she kept. One of her graduates told her this was one of the few promises anyone associated with his education had made and kept. She later taught at Noble Street Charter High School in Chicago.
At Marquette University, where she earned her M. A. in English in 2010, she studied Early British Literature and American Literature and taught freshman-level composition. There she was already turning her attention and the attention of her students to the matters that came to define her as a scholar. One of her Marquette lesson plans, collaboratively planned with her good friend Mark Kelley, asked Marquette students to think critically about the trademark representation of Father Marquette, the university’s namesake, to the Native peoples who were his guides. Her energy and passion endeared her to her students. Sarah’s passion was to help all of us understand the bases of our privileges as readers and scholars, and to give her students the tools necessary to unsettle comfortable and taken-for-granted assumptions. Jodi Melamed, a faculty member who worked with Sarah at Marquette, remembers her passion for intellectual work, her care for others, and her strongly held commitments.
Jodi's words were echoed and re-echoed during the gatherings of mourning friends in San Diego. Mourners reminded each other that Sarah was a fearless and passionate adoptive Californian. With few local contacts, she moved to San Diego several months before she began her Ph.D. studies, and began immediately to become part of her community. She took surfing lessons. She located a yoga studio. She established herself as a craftsperson who sold mosaic potholders and hand-made jewelry at the Hillcrest Farmers Market. She located a coffee house, Twiggs, that became her salon--a place where she did her scholarly work, but, equally important, a place where she engaged with other people. Sometimes they would be utter strangers, to whom she would recommend books. At other times they would be acquaintances or close friends seeking caffeine and smart conversation, whom she would draw to her by her genuine interest in their work. And always she worked--sometimes in solitude, pounding out the daily writing she had committed herself to producing--and sometimes in collaboration with other graduate students in UCSD’s literature department, whom she mentored, challenged, and delighted.
Here at UCSD, Sarah was also a teacher-learner. She worked for two years in Warren Writing Program, where students, who sometimes reluctantly entered the required courses she taught emerged with a strong set of writing and analytical skills and an appreciation of the genuine devotion her teaching entailed. As a graduate student in the seminar room, her enthusiasm and passion energized discussions and challenged others. As a researcher, her commitment to Native histories and Native activism showed us all how academic pursuits can and should have real-world referents and work in tangible, not just theoretical, ways toward social justice. We invite those who weren’t able to attend the various memorial gatherings of the past week to offer written tributes in a keepsake book in the Literature Department’s graduate lounge.