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Honoring Retiring Professor Dr. Kathleen McCormick

Thousand-draft edits. Late-night meetings in her campus apartment. Student-authored guides. Group presentations. Peer mentors. Flipped classrooms. The Joyce Room. Lengthy emails in the middle of the night. Highest standards. Endless support. Lifelong relationships.

These are some of the hallmarks of studying with Dr. Kathleen McCormick, Professor of Literature and Pedagogy, who is retiring after more than twenty years at Purchase. She pushes students to become better writers, deeper thinkers, more engaged learners. She holds students to seemingly impossible standards but supports them each step of the way. “Kathy’s excellence in teaching comes from her all-consuming passion and devotion to her students,” says alumna Amy Crehore (’13, literature). “Her attentiveness and passion nurture strong educational relationships with her students. Her willingness to help students achieve makes students want to achieve.”

In gratitude for the energy, devotion, and talent Professor McCormick has brought to the classroom, Purchase has established the Kathy McCormick Scholarship. This award will be given annually to one or more juniors who demonstrate through various ways—class participation, writing, peer mentoring—their capacity to help teach or inspire their fellow students. They don’t just “say smart things” in class, but engage with peers, probing and expanding on the ideas of others to heighten learning and inquiry. If you would like to honor Kathy and preserve her legacy at Purchase, please make your donation through Purchase College’s secure website at

Professor McCormick arrived at Purchase College in 2000. She was recruited based on her national reputation as an innovator in the field of rhetoric and composition, as well as her scholarly work on James Joyce, cultural studies, and pedagogy. Her innovative pedagogies shaped the literature and freshman composition programs, altered classroom practice campus wide, and inspired students at all levels. Her rigor is surpassed only by her endless energy, generosity, and creativity.

Before the rest of us heard the term, Kathy McCormick flipped the classroom. Students in her classes teach their peers. They work collaboratively as “one great mind.” This approach requires far more openness, engagement, and effort on the part of the teacher, who must carefully structure the syllabus, read daily assignments, provide meaningful responses to multiple written drafts, and be involved in the preparation of every in-class presentation. But Kathy has demonstrated over and over again that this intense work yields exceptional results. Her classes are alive, energetic, and often hilarious. Her students produce increasingly complex, thoughtful, well-written, and creative work.

Students and faculty at Purchase College recognize how privileged they are to have Dr. McCormick as a teacher and mentor. They write: “I never had a professor as dedicated”; “she is truly a wonder to work with”; “any class I take with Kathy has undoubtedly made me a better writer.” Dr. McCormick has won numerous campus-wide awards, including the Purchase College Vice President of Student Affairs Award for Outstanding Faculty Contribution to the Quality of Student Life (2004), the first annual Purchase College Student Engagement Award (2008), the Purchase College Guiding Light Award (2013), and the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2014). And with her support, her students frequently win SUNY Chancellor’s Awards, enter elite graduate school programs, and sometimes become professors of themselves. But no matter what path they take, all know that they have an outstanding advocate and friend for life in Kathy.

Kathy will be leading a special program during Alumni Weekend on Tuesday, April 27 at 6pm. Please join us! You can find out more and register here