Honorary doctorate awarded to poet laureate Ted Kooser

Denise Watt

Denise Watt

National Poet Laureate Ted Kooser received an honorary doctorate of human letters at the SDSU Great Plains Writers’ Conference Monday, March 27.

President Peggy Miller and Vice President Carol Peterson presented Kooser with the degree after he read a selection of his works in the concluding session of the conference.

“It was a complete surprise and I’m delighted to have it,” Kooser said. “I was never much of a student, and now I’m a doctor.”

Miller said awarding the honorary degree is the highest form of recognition given to university alumni, friends or associates.

Kooser, of Nebraska, won a Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for his poetry. He is one of the first national poet laureates to hail from the Midwest.

“It’s lovely to be back,” said Kooser, who has been involved in the conference throughout its 30-year history.

“It’s great to see all these people interested in writing.”

Bridget Nordquist, a junior English major, said Kooser “seemed very down to earth.”

“I found it (Kooser’s reading) really enjoyable. It was an honor to have him at the University.”

Nordquist said Kooser’s work “applied to us in the Midwest, so we could relate.”

As he read his poems, Kooser explained how he writes and some of the themes he uses. He said he writes in the morning, usually from 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m. He writes as an observer, and often about ordinary objects.

“The more ordinary the object, the more fun I have with it,” he said.

In addition to Kooser’s reading, the one-day conference featured several sessions. Presenters included both writers and artists. English Professor Charles Woodard estimated many of the sessions drew between 200 and 300 people.