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Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

Student Read, Student Written, Student Led Since 1878

The Knox Student

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April 15, 2024
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The Old Stomping Grounds

The+Old+Stomping+Grounds

Speaking with 3 Knox alumni currently working as faculty and staff

There are 57 alumni currently working with Knox College in some capacity. Two are admin-senior staff, four are emeritus faculty, seventeen are faculty, and thirty-three are staff. I sat down with three of them to discuss each of their unique journeys. 

Smith-Hahn hand-pleating for Three Sisters (2009)

Photo by Ro Ivaniszek

Allison Smith-Hahn is currently a lecturer in the theatre department and the supervisor of the costume shop. She graduated from Knox in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish. After graduating, she stayed on at Knox College through the post-baccalaureate program from 2010 to 2011.

As a post-baccalaureate, Smith-Hahn worked as an assistant for Margo Shiveley, who was the costume shop supervisor at the time. She took classes while looking for ways to improve the costume shop. This year gave her the opportunity to grow her portfolio and think about how she would work in the professional world.

“I went through all of the historical garments that we had up until that point. I researched how to build a catalog and create sort of an inventory. In some ways, it was a preview to my work in libraries,” Smith-Hahn said, sitting in the office that used to belong to Shiveley, her predecessor. 

Smith-Hahn knew she wanted to go to “Chicagoland” and design in the city. After completing her post-baccalaureate, she moved to Chicago. During the day, she worked at a public library. At night, she drove into the city and worked for various theatres, doing costume design.

Smith-Hahn (Present)

Photo by Ro Ivaniszek

In 2018, Smith-Hahn began pursuing a Master of Library Information and Sciences. While studying catalogs and metadata, she was reminded of the work she had done when organizing the garments in the costume shop. Shortly after, an opportunity arose.

“I was talking with Margo [Shiveley] and she shared that she was retiring. The thought of transitioning away from libraries and spending more time on design was pretty appealing,” Smith-Hahn said.

In 2019, Shiveley retired, and Smith-Hahn took over as the new theatre department lecturer and costume shop supervisor. Although having spent nearly a decade away from Knox, she still finds the culture very familiar. 

“I think I feel it most working with students, that there is a zaniness, there’s a creativity, there’s a quirkiness that is still very much present here. And that was one of the most wonderful things to discover upon returning,” Smith-Hahn said.

Lauver Holding a six point font piece at letterpress studio.

Photo by Ro Ivaniszek

Lily Lauver is currently the shop manager of Knox College’s letterpress studio. She graduated from Knox in 2021 with two bachelor’s degrees in Creative Writing and English Literature. From 2021 to 2022, she worked as a post-baccalaureate in the letterpress studio, alongside fellow 2021 graduate Sam Lisec

Together, they were teaching assistants for a class at the studio in Spring 2022, taught by Associate Professor of English Nick Regiacorte. After completing her post-baccalaureate, Lauver came on as shop manager, as a paid position.

She spends her time as shop manager inventorying the shop, hosting workshops, and filling commissions. This year, she hopes to bring on other apprentices so that the letterpress studio won’t fall into a stalemate after she leaves.

The letterpress studio was established in 2016. Harry “Hal” Keiner, who graduated in 1967, packed his pick-up truck with the letterpress and collections of type, and drove it to Knox for the 50th anniversary of the Creative Writing department. He is the sole donor of the studio.

“I wish I could just somehow transport everybody to show them the space, because it’s weird, and hard to find, and little. When I was a freshman, Monica Berlin used to have her writing studio in this building. And I was really enamored with her letterpress print collection on the wall. So she brought me here one day,” Lauver said.  

In her sophomore year, Lauver did an independent study with Regiacorte to learn how to print. Over the course of the independent study, she fell in love with the craft

“You need to have a lot of patience and it’s a very tedious craft. You have to have the right temperament for a letterpress to really stay with it, and I think I just kind of did,” Lauver said. 

Letter Press Plate

Photo by Ro Ivaniszek

Lauver currently lives in Galesburg, with Lisec as her roommate, and she finds herself a lot more connected to the Galesburg community than when she was a student. However, her experience with the faculty and on campus has changed very little.

“Working with Mark Holmes and Nick Regiacorte and Monica Berlin, I don’t feel as though I’ve been treated differently necessarily. I remember when I was young [at Knox], it’s disarming how seriously they take you, or how much they treat me like an adult,” Lauver said.

After this year, Lauver will be heading on to a graduate program in poetry. However, she isn’t going to leave letterpress printing behind forever. 

“I’m hoping to save up to get a little tabletop press of my own so that I can keep printing wherever I’m at,” Lauver said.

Kiraly

Photo by Ro Ivaniszek

Assistant Professor of the Practice Sherwood Kiraly is Knox College’s Distinguished Writer-in-Residence. He was a student at Knox from 1967 to 1971, and was a declared theatre major. He had a long journey from student to professor.

“I did all my theatre work, lots of stuff in Studio [Theatre], acting, wrote plays, in a sketch comedy group. I was very conscientious about that. However, I wasn’t as conscientious with things that had nothing to do with writing or theater. So at the end of June of 1971, after four years, I was three credits short of graduating,” Kiraly said, sitting in his office shared with Regiacorte.

After failing to graduate, Kiraly moved to Chicago and worked at a newspaper syndicate as a typist and, later, an editor. The syndicate moved to California, and he moved with it. After sixteen years, he left the syndicate to dedicate more time to writing. 

He wrote four novels (California Rush (1990), Diminished Capacity (1995), Big Babies (1996), and Who’s Hot, Who’s Not (1998)), and a movie (Diminished Capacity (2008), dir. by Terry Kinney).

Occasionally, Kiraly ended up back at Knox. He was awarded an alumni award for his novels, and at one point was a chair member for a student’s honor’s project. In the mid-2000s, he sat in on a writing workshop taught by the late Professor of English, Robin Metz. Metz’s first year at Knox was Kiraly’s last, so they had initially known each other as professor and student.

Kiraly recounted the conversation that started him on the path to complete his degree:

“[Metz] was driving me back to the airport for me to go back to California. And he said, ‘You seem to enjoy yourself in that workshop’. And I said, ‘I did. I really like the students.’ He said, ‘Would you like to teach?’ I said, ‘I’d love to, but I can’t.’ And I was so disgusted with myself when I got home that I called the registrar here at Knox and I said, ‘I’ve been three credits short of the degree for years, what do I have to do to graduate.’ They said, ‘Well, you got to take a science course,’” Kiraly said.

Kiraly took his science class, as well as two additional courses for the credit hours, while still living in California. He got his Knox College degree in 2007.

In 2010, Metz invited him to teach a handful of writing workshops over two terms. He was invited back in 2011 on a one-year contract basis, and has been here ever since. The creative writing department has grown and changed a lot since he was last a student at Knox. However, he finds that the culture and the spaces are largely the same.

“I was in the Gizmo and I was seeing students who made me think that nothing had changed. Some of them resembled people I’d known when I was here as a student, which is a weird double exposure effect. And then Robin [Metz] was sitting at a table talking to a student, just as he’d been doing, 30 or 40 years before,” Kiraly said.

He currently teaches two writing workshops, a Playwriting and Screenwriting workshop and Fiction Into Film, as well as beginning courses for fiction and playwriting. 

“I’m glad to be here. I was an editor for a while, I was a writer for a while — still am. And then I got to be a teacher and that’s a good, symmetrical life for me. A good third act,” Kiraly said.

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