Storms forecast: 43 years and counting
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He’s related to Ralph Waldo Emerson and one of the Salem witches, has a scar from being bitten by a piranha and he once found mountain lion tracks while walking to school. He met her at the University of Wyoming, and proposed four months after they started seeing each other.
Together, they may be Emporia State’s most interesting couple, and they’ve been working here for 43 years.
Mel Storm, interim chair of the English department and professor of English, and Donna Storm, clinical supervisor of student teaching, first met in a transcendentalism class while in graduate school.
“She was there because she had an American studies fellowship and had to take the class,” Mel Storm said. “I was there because Emerson is part of my family.”
In fact, Ralph Waldo Emerson is his great-great-great-great uncle, and his great-great grandfather was tutored by Henry David Thoreau.
“I do have a deep connection with transcendentalism,” Mel Storm joked.
Mel and Donna Storm were wed in the 1966, and moved to Emporia in 1971, when they both got jobs at ESU. For Mel Storm, the English department needed someone to teach Old English and History of the English Language.
“It may seem odd to some, but I love teaching History of the English Language,” Mel Storm said. “I love the HEL class. It’s a good thing I do, because I have literally taught it once or twice a year every year since 1971.”
Mel Storm said he loves working with language, history and literature, and in the HEL class, he gets to work with all of those aspects. Throughout the years, he has been honored as a Roe R. Cross Distinguished Professor and a Xi Phi Outstanding Faculty Member. He has spent a third of his years at ESU serving on Faculty Senate in one capacity or another – and he used to be the president.
Donna Storm also snagged a job at the university in 1971, supervising student teachers, which is what she still does today.
“I had taught English at Urbana High School in Illinois and had worked with a number of student teachers and I thought that was something that I wanted to continue doing, so I decided to apply for the job and I got it,” she said.
Being able to get paid to read books and work with highly-educated colleagues has been a plus for Mel Storm.
“It has been rewarding,” he said. “Emporia State has been a very good home for me, or I wouldn’t have stayed this long. My profession being what it is and my colleagues and students being what they are, I have never been bored for a minute.”
Donna Storm said they have stayed at the university for so long because they feel like a part of the Emporia community and have a desire to promote ESU.
“I think that Emporia State offers an opportunity for one-on-one – smaller classes and more interaction between professors and students,” she said.
The couple enjoys visiting Council Grove Lake, gardening and reading. Their latest project has been trying to grow orchids. But traveling is a particularly fond hobby for them. Mel Storm said he couldn’t even count the number of countries the pair has been to.
“It would seriously take a bit of sitting down and counting to see how many,” he said. “We try to travel whenever we have to opportunity. We’ve become particularly fond of Africa – east Africa and southern Africa. We love Europe. We really love Italy.”
As for leaving the university any time soon, Mel Storm said that’s not an option. The English department had three faculty members resign on the same day to take other jobs elsewhere, will be losing two senior faculty members due to retirement, has two faculty going on sabbatical next year and two faculty members on half-time research grants. He said there’s “a lot of work to be done.”
“Right now, I’m just figuring out how to make sure the classes get taught, and, as they say, make sure that the lights stay on,” Mel Storm said.