Carl Alan Adkins, PhD, passed away on Jan. 27, 2017 at Solace Center in Asheville, N.C. Cause of death was a rare form of thyroid cancer. During his lifetime, Carl made a difference in the lives of untold students at all levels and influenced many to reach for their dreams.
Carl was born in Grinnell on March 8, 1937. Although he was the only child of Adelbert and Marian Adkins, he was proud that he had 38 first cousins. The family moved to Marion in 1938 where they resided for the balance of their lives. Adelbert owned and operated a haberdashery on Main Street and in later years was well known in Iowa for his harness horse racing and for announcing such races at county fairs; Marian was the bookkeeper and homemaker.
After Marion elementary and high school (where he was senior class president), Carl attended Grinnell College, where he majored in English. After earning his BA (1959), he married Paula Ruth Kirby whom he met at Grinnell. He joined the US Army in 1960 and after boot camp was posted to Fort Buchanan, Puerto Rico, to teach conversational English to Puerto Rican recruits. Carl and Paula had warm and funny memories of the two years they spent in their little house in Bayamon (married couples could not live on base in the ‘60s). Discharged in 1962, they moved to Moscow, Idaho, where he taught English while earning his MA at the University of Idaho (1964). From Idaho they moved to Shenandoah, where Carl was Chair, Department of English, Shenandoah High School from 1964-1966. In 1972, he received his PhD from Kansas State University.
Carl and Paula had three children: Charles Kirby Adkins-Blanch (1962), Marcia Ann Heeren (1966),and Scott Richard Adkins (1971). In 1966, Carl moved the family to Storm Lake when he accepted a faculty position at Buena Vista University. It was there he and Paula raised their family and where Carl liked to say he taught English composition, creative writing, literature and poetry “for 64 semesters.” He became famous for initiating the BVU Shakespeare Bowl, the first African American and Women’s Literature curricula in Iowa, as well as the many seminars, dinners and forums he and Paula hosted in their home. During his years at BVU, he worked hard to serve the university, as assistant dean, varsity tennis coach (1979-1997), founder of the BVU Writing Center, chair of the faculty senate and leader of curriculum development for 25 years. He served beyond BVU as a North Central Association Council and Consultant/Evaluator.
Carl delighted in advocating for the BVU English department with students and parents who doubted the utility of majoring in English. When asked “what good is an English major,” he would respond “…well, name a career that English doesn’t prepare you for.” He inspired hundreds of students to go on in law, medicine, journalism, acting and academia, where they found their excellent preparation a definite boost to their careers.
In addition to teaching, Carl was a poet. He published dozens of poems, articles and critiques in scholarly journals and edited several poetry journals, including, VISTAs and Sunday Clothes and South Dakota Arts Magazine. He also published three collections of poems, the last entitled Snapshots of My Childhood.
Carl retired in 1998 and married Catherine Foster Alter, another Grinnell classmate and dean of the graduate school of social work at the University of Denver. Carl continued his passion for teaching/mentoring and founded the DU Writing Lab in Catherine’s department. They lived in Denver until 2007, when she retired and they moved to Asheville, N.C. Carl was never happier than when he worked with students. From the time he arrived in Asheville, he volunteered to serve the UNCA Athletic Department as their “writing coach.” Over the last nine years of his life he aided many student athletes with their writing skills. He will be remembered with love and respect by Catherine and his children as well as untold students around the country.
Carl is survived by his wife, Catherine; sons: Charles Adkins-Blanch and his wife, Sara of Arlington, Va.; Scott Adkins and his wife, Erin Courtney of Brooklyn, N.Y.; daughter, Marcia Heeren and her husband, Ron, of Sioux City; granddaughters: Tasha Adkins-Blanch of Arlington, Va.; Megan Adkins-Blanch, of San Antonio, Texas; Kirsten Heeren of Clinton; grandsons, Charlie and Theo Adkins-Courtney, of Brooklyn, N.Y.; step-children: Sarah (Neal) Gershon of Chicago, Ill.; Sue Stoveall of Aurora,Colo.; and Steven Alter and Michelle O’Connor of Iowa City; step-grandchildren: Sam Stoveall of Waverly; Sari Stoveall of Aurora, Colo.; and Zoe Theobald of Lawrence, Kan.
Memorial donations may be sent to the UNC Asheville Foundation, Athletics Scholarship Fund, Attn: Janet R. Cone, Athletics Department, One University Hts., CPO#2600 Asheville, NC 28801.