Editor’s note: This story is part of ‘Meet a UChicagoan,’ a regular series focusing on the people who make UChicago a distinct intellectual community. Read about the others here.
In 1978, Larry McEnerney was a graduate student and an aspiring literature scholar at the University of Chicago when he witnessed faculty members Joseph M. Williams and Gregory Colomb engaged in rigorous debate over the craft of writing.
“I had this sense of being present at the creation,” McEnerney said. At the time, he was training to help teach a course on high-level professional and academic writing—the first iteration of what would become the Little Red Schoolhouse.
“I remember vividly Monday nights in the fall quarter, over in Cobb Hall, when we would come in expecting to be trained, and it would be three hours of Joe and Greg arguing with each other about writing,” McEnerney said. “On the one hand, it was terrifying because we were going to have to teach a course when we didn’t know what the content of the course was going to be. On the other hand, it was thrilling.”
This spirit of debate would ignite his passion for writing and transform his career.
McEnerney became one of the 12 initial graduate students to teach writing seminars in the Little Red Schoolhouse. Now entering retirement after more than 40 years with the University, he leaves the course as one many alumni cite as one of the most memorable—and useful—experiences during their studies.