Jack Ridl, professor emeritus of English at Hope College, will be featured on the program of the first reunion of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame (NEBHOF) both as the son of one of the honorees and as a nationally acclaimed poet.
Ridl is the son of the late Charles “Buzz” Ridl, who will receive one of the first annual NEBHOF Innovator Awards during the event on Saturday, Nov. 12, at Springfield College in Masschusetts. Ridl will accept the award on behalf of his father, and will also participate in a panel discussion on innovation and lead NEBHOF’s presentation of a “Basketball Genius” award to Jim Calhoun, who is retired as the head coach of the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team. Ridl will read poems during the event in honor of both his father and Calhoun.
“Buzz” Ridl’s career included serving as head coach at Westminster College and the University of Pittsburgh. He is credited with resurrecting Pittsburgh’s basketball program, and for developing the “Amoeba Defense.” When Buzz died in April 1995 at age 74, Bob Smizik of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote of him, “If you’re looking for the man who turned Pitt basketball from nothing into something, it’s Ridl,” continuing with, “He was a wonderful coach, an excellent human being. He was a kind, gentle man who seldom raised his voice, never spoke ill of another person.”
Jack Ridl taught at Hope from 1971 until retiring in 2006. He is the author of several collections of poetry, and has also published more than 300 poems in journals and has work included in numerous anthologies. In addition, he has read his work and led workshops at colleges, universities, art colonies and other venues around the country.
His work includes dozens of sports-themed poems and essays that have been published broadly, including in the collection “Losing Season” (CavanKerry Press, 2009) which chronicles a year of hope and defeat on and off the basketball court in a small town. The collection and selections from it have been featured nationally, including on National Public Radio’s “The Story” with Dick Gordon and on “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor. The Institute for International Sport named the volume the “Sports Education Book of the Year” in 2009. In 2007, the institute had named Ridl one of the 100 most influential sports educators in America, recognized as “sports poet.”
He has received multiple honors for his other collections as well. His most recent, “Practicing to Walk Like a Heron,” received Gold recognition for poetry in the 2013 IndieFab Awards competition sponsored by Foreword Reviews magazine and this summer was named an “Editor’s Pick” by the quarterly poetry journal Rattle. The anthology “Poetry in Michigan/Michigan in Poetry,” which he co-edited with award-winning poet Dr. William Olsen of the Western Michigan University English faculty, was named a 2014 Michigan Notable Book. The Society of Midland Authors named his collection “Broken Symmetry” one of the two best volumes of poetry published in 2006. In 2001, his collection “Against Elegies” was chosen by U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins as the winner of the “Letterpress Chapbook Competition” sponsored by the Center for Book Arts of New York City. Through the years, a number of his other poems have also been featured on “The Writer’s Almanac” with Garrison Keillor.
Ridl’s other volumes include “The Same Ghost,” “Between,” “After School,” “Poems from ‘The Same Ghost’ and ‘Between,’” and “Outside the Center Ring.” In addition to his volumes of poetry, he is co-author, with Hope colleague Peter Schakel, of two textbooks, “Approaching Poetry: Perspectives and Responses” and “Approaching Literature.” They also co-edited two anthologies.
Ridl also received recognition both at Hope and beyond for as a master teacher and for service. In 2014, the Poetry Society of Michigan appointed him honorary chancellor in recognition of the high quality and beauty of his poetry and his participation in and support of the society, and the Community Literacy Initiative presented him a Community Literacy Award in the area of Talent for outstanding contributions in increasing literacy levels and sustained depth and breadth in commitment to the advancement of literacy. In 1996, he was chosen Michigan’s “Professor of the Year” by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. More than 80 of Ridl’s former students are now publishing.
At Hope, the college’s graduating class presented him with the “Hope Outstanding Professor Educator Award” in 1976; he received the faculty appreciation award from the student body during Homecoming in 2003; and the graduating seniors selected him to present the Commencement address in both 1975 and 1986. The college’s Visiting Writers Series, which he co-founded in 1982 with his wife Julie Garlinghouse Ridl, was named in his honor in 2006.
Westminster College, from which he holds both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, presented him with an “Alumni Citation Award” in September 2005.