University of North Dakota Faculty/Staff Newsletter

Memorial service set for William Borden, former professor of English

William BordenWilliam V. Borden, Chester Fritz Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English, playwright, novelist, and poet, died Oct. 23 in Rockwall, Texas. He was 72.

Born in Indianapolis, he earned degrees from Columbia and University of California at Berkeley, married Nancy Lee-Borden in 1960 and, in 1962, arrived at UND, where he taught literature and creative writing. He was the fiction editor of the North Dakota Quarterly from 1986-2002.

Borden's prolific inventiveness was first seen in his comic novel, Superstoe, which took place at a university in Great Spoons, North Dakota, and his recent novel, Dancing with Bears, set in Minnesota where he lived for 15 years after retirement.

Between these two novels, Borden produced a variety of short stories that appeared in more than 30 literary magazines. He won the PEN Syndicated Fiction Prize and the Writers Voice Fiction Contest. His poems appeared in more than 80 literary magazines and over 20 anthologies.

As a playwright, Borden proved to be productive and successful. He wrote the North Dakota Centennial play, his opera, Sakakawea, was given its world premiere in Grand Forks in 1989, and The Last Prostitute was adapted for a Lifetime Television film. Borden also became a master of the short form, receiving recognition for eight one-act plays and 17 ten-minute plays.

A one-time physics student and a full-time philosopher of time and space, of relationships, and of sexuality, Borden often delighted in creating plays with strange premises. In Perilous Gravity in a Loopy Universe, Einstein and Kafka meet to discuss relativity; in Turtle Island Blues, Sitting Bull travels through space and 500 years of American history.

"Insightful and delightfully wacky," said one critic of a Borden play and, due to his keen ear and rhythmic sense, more than one reviewer has characterized his dialogue as the equivalent of high-powered ping-pong.

Many of Borden's previous students remember his work in Black Literature at UND at a time when such courses were just beginning in the U. S. as well as his dedicated approach to teaching creative writing.

Wry, quick-witted, and incapable of falling into conventionality, William Borden will long be remembered by his colleagues, administrators, and legions of students as well as his large and satisfied literary audience.

He is survived by his wife, Nancy Lee-Borden; brother, James, three children, Andrew, Sara and Rachel; and seven grandchildren, Christine, Katherine, Sarina, Priya, Josie, Lexie, and Makayla.

A memorial service will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 4, 2010, at the Hopper-Danley Memorial Spiritual Center on campus.

Donations may be made to the Authors Guild or the Global Polio Eradication Initiative. For more information, visit www.williamborden.com . -- Courtesy Grand Forks Herald.


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