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It was clear from the moment she first entered a seminar room in Ballantine Hall that Adrianne Wadewitz (Jan. 6, 1977-April 8, 2014) was not going to do graduate school like rest. Where others were happy tossing ideas back and forth, Adrianne was set on the baseline, powering through a serve-and-volley match. For her, a seminar was serious business. Ideas mattered. Literary inquiry mattered. Teaching mattered: each meeting in each course, each assignment from each student mattered. They mattered not merely within Ballantine Hall or within the academy, but walking out on the street, traveling out onto the web and into the world.

When the rest studied for doctoral exams, so did Adrianne. She studied eighteenth-century British literature and thought, with a focus on children’s literature and feminist criticism. But then Adrianne also trained herself into another field altogether, on which none of her professors could test her:  the emerging field of digital humanities. It’s as if she were doing graduate school twice—and simultaneously. Like other members of her cohort, she gave papers at regional conferences on eighteenth-century literature; unlike them she also flew to New Delhi and Alexandria, Egypt to talk to specialists about Humanities and the Web. If you read a Wikipedia entry on an eighteenth-century woman writer, Adrianne probably wrote it: in all she contributed to more than 40,000 articles for the online encyclopedia. This May she was scheduled to give a keynote address at the annual WikiConference in New York City.

Most literary scholars prefer to work on their own. Adrianne thrived on collaboration and taut exchange –“intellectual democracy,” a colleague called it.  She was open to criticism and eager for feedback; she assumed you were too.  As her networks grew and her web-presence expanded, she invited others along. Her skill in teaching eighteen-year-olds how to write essays morphed into a talent for teaching professors how to embrace the internet, how to set up collaborate projects for their students, how to analyze and use quantitative data, and how to challenge gender bias on Wikipedia. Each step seemed to bring her more pleasure, more ease and greater energy.

This past March, she accepted a hybrid Faculty-Administrator job at Whittier College, where she was charged with developing a new digital liberal arts program. Adrianne wrote, “I'm extremely happy, as this is precisely the type of job I wanted . . . . As I've been telling everyone, it is rare in academia that you get to have a job you love in a place you love, so I consider myself very lucky.” But she was much more than lucky.

At its best and most effective, a doctoral program serves as a launching pad. Adrianne Wadewitz was one of our most successful launches. She soared. 

Mary Favret
Richard Nash
Nick Williams

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