This Spring, Dr. Doug Sugano is finishing up his final and 30th year of teaching in the Whitworth English Department. In his time at Whitworth, Doug has taught many valuable courses as the department’s Medieval Drama and Literature Professor. Though, when asked about what he has taught at Whitworth, his response was, “beats the hell out of me.” There is no denying that Dr. Sugano is a well-loved and admired professor, and you may have had the pleasure to get to know Doug in courses such as Early British Literature, Asian American Literature, Multicultural American Literature and Literary Theory. Doug’s humorous and engaging nature is reflected within his teaching style and course material as well.
It is common to find Doug’s Shakespeare classes putting on performances in Whitworth’s HUB throughout the year, but it’s the uncommon moments of student-acting that Doug remembers most. According to Doug, the most “horrifying” yet memorable instance of student-performances took place about four years ago when his students were performing the final scenes of Shakespeare’s, Titus Andronicus. Doug describes that in the last scene, Titus had two men killed, “and made them into a pie.” The best part, Doug says, is that “the class decided, ‘we’re going to use red Jell-O for the pie!’” Every student and passer-by was “kind of horrified” by the makeshift pie, “but the real problem,” Doug says, “was that the next day, I got this email from Facilities saying, ‘do you realize what the Jell-O did to our carpet?’” Moments like these, along with many others, are what Doug loves about teaching Medieval Drama.
Doug describes that he was “drifting” through his PhD program when during his third year at UCLA he enrolled in a Medieval Drama class. Before enrolling in this course, Doug says, “I was going to do 20thCentury American poetry, literature and Asian American literature.” However, the trajectory of his career changed shortly after taking Medieval Drama. Doug’s experience in Medieval Drama “was wonderful,” he says, “because it had a lot of things I was really looking for. It put together everything I understood about Christianity and the Bible.” More than Medieval literature’s intersection with the Bible, the uniqueness of this area of study appealed to Doug as well. “I found out there really aren’t that many medieval drama scholars,” Doug says, and not only this, but the few people there were, “were super nice.” Sharing their research and expertise, Medieval scholars welcomed Doug into their community as he (as a grad student) began attending conferences in the field; Doug had “found [his] people.”
Doug’s courses have brought people together, building community within the English Department; sometimes through the humor of student-performances, and other times by helping students to learn about and connect with their own culture through literature. One of Doug’s favorite memories from his time at Whitworth was when this January, Doug taught his final section of Asian American Literature. Because of one relationship with a student who had a strong desire for Asian American Literature and how it relates to her story and culture, Doug said, “okay I’ll change my schedule,” and in doing so, created an opportunity this specific student (and others who took the course) to learn about themselves, to “find their people” in a sense, through literature. Doug’s ability to create deeper connections for students between themselves and others is yet another reason why Doug loves what he teaches, and why we’re all so grateful he does.
Lucky for the Whitworth community, Dr. Sugano has made the English Department and its students part of his “people” as well. Owing the notion to an author friend of his, Leif Enger, Doug describes Whitworth students as being “clear-eyed.” According to Doug, “they’re awake, they’re eager, and they’re purposeful and present.” Surely, each of Doug’s students and fellow faculty members have been fortunate to experience his eager and present character in return. The English Department as a whole is filled both with gratitude and sadness in saying good-bye to such a valuable member of the English community. But more than sadness, there is pride and excitement in having the privilege to have known and learned from Dr. Sugano, and to celebrate what lies ahead for our beloved professor and colleague. Thank you, Doug! Here’s to finding your people!