Distinguished Achievement Award

Rufus Perry 1861

2023 Recipient

Rufus Perry 1861 is the 2023 recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award

Read Diane “Di” Seuss’s Biography

The late Con Hilberry (Kalamazoo College Professor Emeritus of English) occasionally told the story of the 16-year-old Niles (Mich.) girl with the “suitcase” full of poems. Turns out that girl was eventual Pulitzer Prize for Poetry winner Diane Seuss. Back then she was fresh off her first poetry prize—an honorable mention in a statewide poetry contest. Hilberry had been a judge in that contest, and during a Poets-in-the-Schools visit to Niles Brandywine High School he sought Seuss out.

“After he asked if I had more poems,” she says, “I ran home and got my dad’s old briefcase where I kept my work. Not only did he do the Conrad Hilberry ‘WOWWW,’ he also said, ‘Let’s do a reading together,’ and so off we went from classroom to classroom reading poems.”

The elder poet’s commitment to the younger—poetical, financial, avuncular—continued long past that high school visit. “Without him, my K experience would have been beyond my wildest dreams.”

And what an experience it was! “Kalamazoo College provided me with a productive, creative space to discover myself as a student and to uncover my ability to engage with ideas, texts, and scholars,” says Seuss. “Even at my worst, when I rebelled or disappointed my mentors, I was sharpening my teeth for the positive work I would engage in later. K gave me the experience of being seen, heard, acknowledged, and valued.”

Seuss majored in English after enjoying immersive major starts in theatre arts and sociology and anthropology. She studied abroad in Madrid and, for her SIP, wrote an 80-page collection of poems The Midnight Ride of Monster Woman while living in a one-room, Upper Peninsula cabin with no running water or electricity.

After graduating, Seuss lived in New York City before returning to Kalamazoo to earn a master’s degree in social work (Western Michigan University). She then did therapeutic work with women and children in Kalamazoo’s YWCA Domestic Assault Program and the Oxford (Ohio) Crisis and Referral Center.
Her K teaching career began with a creative writing course to fill-in for Hilberry. “That course went well enough that I was invited back, and back again, and so on,” she says. “I loved—LOVED—working with students. Eventually the Provost found a way to make my work at K a full-time position.”

Seuss says: “For the 30 years I taught at K my students kept me invested in contemporary poetry and reminded me, daily, of the power of poetry to create and nurture community.”

In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, her book, frank: sonnets, this year received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the PEN/Voelker Prize for Poetry, and the L.A. Times Book Prize. In 2018, Seuss’s book, Still Life with Two Dead Peacocks and a Girl, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the L.A. Times Book Prize. In 2010, Wolf Lake, White Gown Blown Open was awarded the Juniper Prize for Poetry. Seuss is one of the very few K teachers to have received both Lucasse Awards, for excellence in teaching and in scholarship. Since her retirement from K she has taught poetry at Colorado College, Washington University in St. Louis, and the University of Michigan. Next year she will serve as the Mohr Visiting Poet at Stanford University.

Her forthcoming book, Modern Poetry (2024) is titled after the first poetry class she took at K, taught by Con Hilberry. “The title poem is about that course,” says Seuss. “And the cover photo is a self-portrait I took on study abroad in Spain.”

About the Distinguished Achievement Award

The Distinguished Achievement Award honors those graduated from the College who have achieved distinction in their professional fields. Candidates shall have received awards or other recognition from their peers as evidence of distinguished achievement in their profession. National or international recognition indicating a continuing or enduring level of achievement is desirable.

If you know someone like this, please nominate them today!

Past Recipients

The name of the honoree is listed alphabetically, followed by class year and the year the award was bestowed.


Glenn S. Allen, Jr. ’36 (1986)
Harold B. Allen ’24 (1980) ^
Renee Askins ’81 (1999)


George C. Baldwin ’39 (1987)
H. Lewis Batts, Jr. ’43 (1978) ^
Larry Bell ’80 (2010)
Bruce Benton ’64 (1988)
Louis F. Brakeman ’54 (1992)
Roger E. Brinner ’69 (1987)
Harold W. Brown ’24 (1982) ^
Garry Brown ’51 (1994)


Susana Cabeza de Vaca ’67 (2011)
Arnold Campbell ’72 (2012)
David Campbell ’71 (1995)
Martha Campbell ’72 (2012)
I. Carl Candoli ’50 (1986) ^
Frances Clark ’28 (1987) ^
Scott Cleland ’82 (2000)
Teju Cole ’96 (2021)
Alma Smith Crawford ’27 (1983) ^


Harold Decker ’67 (2008)
William DeGrado ′77 (2017)
Mildred Doster ’30 (1976) ^


Paul Eads ’73 (1997)
Eva M. Eicher ’61 (1992)
Kenneth G. Elzinga ’63 (1983)


Elsie Herbold Froeschner ’35 (1988) ^


Harry T. Garland ’68 (1983)
Walter A. Good ’37 (1977) ^
William E. Good ’37 (1977) ^
Sandra Greene ’74 (2018)


Richard D. Haas ’65 (1993)
Donald L. Hafner ’66 (1987)
E. James Harkema ’64 (1992)
John N. Howell ′61 (2015)
Richard C. Hudson ’69 (1991)
Holly Hughes ’77 (1995)


Calvert Johnson ’71 (2016)


Cynthia Earl Kerman ’44 (1979)
Lisa Kron ’83 (2003)


Vincent Liff ’73 (1995)


Jacqueline Buck Mallinson ’48 (1989) ^
Mark McDonald ’73 (1996)
Ralph W. McKee ’34 (1981) #
Genna Rae McNeil ’69 (1986)
Julie Mehretu ’92 (2007)
David Mesenbring ’73 (2003)
Helen Pratt Mickens ’76 (2006)
John D. Montgomery ’41 (1988) ^


Daniel Nepstad ’79 (2013)


Gilbert F. Otto ’26 (1989)


Guy L. Perry ’27 (1988)
Harley R. Pierce ’51 (1993)
Fred O. Pinkham ’42 (1989)


Jack P. Ragotzy ’48 (1993)
William R. Rogers ’54 (1985)
Gerald E. Rosen ′73 (2014)
Daniel M. Ryan ’42 (1975)


John Sarno ’44 (2004)
Myra Selby ’77 (1998)
Diane Seuss ’78 (2022)
Jeanne Sigler ’69 (2019)
P. Ronald Spann ’65 (1999)
Laurence E. Strong ’36 (1984)


Gene Tidrick ’64 (2004)
Peter S. Tippett ’75 (2005)
Frank S. Tomkins ’37 (1990)


Margaret E. Waid ’40 (1987)
John W. Warner ’66 (1990)
Craig S. Wells ’75 (1989)
Kathleen West ’77 (2001)
Owen W. Williams ’48 (1986)
David Wilson ’69 (2009)
Marcia J. Wood ’55 (1986)

# Received Distinguished Service Award
^ Received Citation of Merit Award