Conversation with Dr. Richard Enos

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TCU Professor Dr. Richard Leo Enos in the English department. He teaches Rhetoric and Composition

When I stepped inside Dr. Enos’s room for his spotlight interview, he smiled cordially in my direction, pushed away a thick book inundated with sticky notes and markings, and sat down next to me. Immediately, the atmosphere was different from what I expected. Instead of sitting across from me with a desk between us, he had chosen to sit beside me, and this informal yet intimate pathway to conversation encapsulates his view on teaching and mentorship.

Having taught for nearly 46 years as a professor, Dr. Enos has a robust academic portfolio filled with awards and nominations, the products of dedication and hard work. As an English professor with a focus on Classical studies, he is a Lillian Radford Endowed Chair in Rhetoric and Composition and soon-to-be Emeritus professor. I could tell by his overflowing bookshelf and high stacks of papers that he is a serious academic with a passion for education.

How did you decide you wanted to become a professor? I asked. He looked away from me for a second to think as if to recall a distant memory, and then he said, “No one in my family had ever graduated from college.” Looking at his academic record, I didn’t suspect that. His family originated from Oakland, and although his mother was an honors student in high school, she never had the money to attend a good college institution in her day. The first time Dr. Enos ever met a professor, he was amazed. He always thought he would go into the religious order, having been an altar boy in his Catholic childhood, but that all changed when he realized he could teach in college and still get married and have children. He graduated from California State University (East Bay) with a Bachelor’s in speech communication, and, when he earned his Ph.D. from Indiana University, he put his mother’s honors pin on his doctoral robe to remind him of the importance of his education and his mother’s sacrifice.

In his free time, Dr. Enos personally signs hundreds of undergraduate admissions letters and opens his office doors for students. All students and even parents are invited to sit in during his lectures, a considerate gesture for the students’ financial supporters. Sean McCullough, a Lilian Radford Ph.D. Fellow who studied under Dr. Enos, remarked, “Dr. Enos is a remarkable teacher. As a student, I can always tell that Dr. Enos spends a significant amount of time and energy preparing for his lessons. In class, he presents his material clearly and leaves room for engaging dialogue. He also crafts really thoughtful assignments that, to be sure, take a lot of effort to complete, but that aid well in the learning of the material. As a person, Dr. Enos is kind, gracious, and caring. He is incredibly industrious and keeps a busy schedule, yet he always seems to find time to devote to his students and colleagues. He is also incredibly smart and has an incredible ability to make those around him feel smart as well.” Sean is not the only student who feels this way. Even talking to Dr. Enos for an hour made me feel extremely welcomed and cared for.

I asked him about the attitudes and skills one would need to be a teacher in college. “To teach well requires enormous effort. It takes a lot of prep. There’s papers to grade, and all this other stuff,” he said, gesturing to the binders and papers on his desk. I nodded as if I understood. He told me he is always writing and researching, and even after his retirement he plans on traveling to Asia Minor to look at inscriptions in ancient Greek cities. He admitted to me that he never writes good first drafts, but he always revises multiple times. For such a successful academic to not write excellent first drafts was shocking to me. Researching in the higher academia required a lot more work than I would’ve guessed.

Dr. Enos’s eyes brightened when I told him I was considering applying for a Fulbright and wanted to become a professor like him. He told me of his previous Fulbright students whom he had helped with their applications and other recommendation letters to prestigious positions in graduate school and law school, and he revealed to me his key to success, “Get going early, and be the kind of person who can take criticism. When you go to grad school, the person sitting next to you is just as smart as you are. But you’re a hard worker. Sometimes they’re smart but don’t work. If you’re a hard-worker and smart, my money is on you.” Duly noted.

To the man who has contributed more than enough to TCU and the English Department and whose presence will be missed, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.