Nathaniel Hart

Nat Hart, gray hair, beard, glasses, dark suit jacket with a flower corsage seated at the Faculty and Staff Recognition Dinner in 2001.

Nathaniel Hart was among the early faculty at the University of Minnesota Morris, joining the English faculty in 1961, a year after the school was founded. Hart remained at UMN Morris until his retirement in 2001. In addition to teaching numerous courses within the English discipline he also served in many administrative capacities, including Chair of the Division of Humanities during the 1980s, a critical time of budget cuts and retrenchment. He also played a leadership role in the efforts to create diversity on the UMN Morris campus, chairing and serving on several committees aimed at improving the multicultural climate on the campus.[1]


born in Brooklyn, New York

received his BA in English from Tulane University

appointed instructor in English, University of Connecticut, Storrs

appointed instructor in English, University of Minnesota Minneapolis

appointed instructor in English, University Minnesota Morris

promoted to Assistant Professor in English, UMN Morris

promoted to Associate Professor in English, UMN Morris

promoted to Professor of English, UMN Morris

appointed Chair of the Humanities Division, UMN Morris

retired from UMN Morris

died in Morris, Minnesota on January 16

Personal Life

Nathaniel Hart was born March 4, 1930 in Brooklyn, New York to David and Ruth Hart. In 1952 he earned a BA in English from Tulane University. He earned his MA in English from the University of Connecticut, Storrs in 1954. He enlisted in the United States Army and served in Germany before an honorable discharge. Before coming to the University of Minnesota Morris he taught English at the University of Connecticut, Storrs and at the University of Minnesota Minneapolis. He earned his PhD from the University of Minnesota in 1968. He was married to the poet Joanne Velz Hart. Together they had eight children.[2] In Nat’s later years, the poet, Vicki Graham, became his companion.


Research and Teaching

During his tenure at UMN Morris Hart taught numerous courses within the English discipline, not only in his specialty area of 19th century English literature but also courses such as the modern American novel, Native American literature, techniques and form in poetry, and modern literature and its roots. Hart considered himself a generalist and taught a wide variety of classes including Greek tragedy and Irish literature. He also taught writing courses including: remedial writing, college writing, journal writing and advanced composition.
Much of Hart’s research focused on the poetry of Robert Browning and he served as the advisory editor of four volumes of The Complete Works of Robert Browning. In addition, he published essays that ranged from Browning to pedagogy to contemporary poetry.[3]

Community Involvement

Community Involvement

During his time in Morris, Hart was involved in various local community activities. An active member of the DFL party, he served as Chair of the Stevens County DFL in the 1960s, playing a leadership role in local opposition to the United States involvement in the Vietnam War.[4] He also served as Vice Chairman of the Morris Public Housing Authority from 1966 to 1974, participating in the planning, building, and management of the Grand View Apartments.[5]
In 1973, Hart actively participated in the initial planning to include literature as a new program of the Minnesota State Arts Council. He joined with a small group of writers to develop a proposal for the inclusion of a literature program. Following the decision by the Board to approve the proposal Hart served on the Literature Advisory Panel to the State Arts Board until 1976.[6]

Campus Contributions

In addition to his teaching role, Nathaniel Hart played an active role in the development and advancement of the role of English in higher education at UMN Morris. He served as Coordinator of English Composition during the late 1960s. He also was Coordinator of the English Discipline in 1971-72 and again in 1977-80, and between 1994 and 1997 he served as the director of the Faculty Center for Learning and Teaching.[7]
Hart was Chair of the Humanities Division from 1980 to 1985. During this period the University of Minnesota experienced major budget retrenchment. Even during this retrenchment, under Hart’s leadership, the Humanities Division was still able to move forward with some new ventures. These include the development of a summer theatre program, a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) for the foreign language disciplines, and the selection by the NEH to host a Summer Seminar for High School Teachers.[8]
While at UMN Morris Hart was instrumental in the university’s efforts to improve the opportunities for students of color and in promoting multicultural understanding. He designed and taught a course in Native American Literature and initiated a course devoted to the writings of African American writer and activist James Baldwin. Hart campaigned for a multicultural literature requirement within the English discipline, including women’s literature, as part of the English major. This led to the development of an English faculty position that includes specialties in Native American and Chicana/Chicano literature in addition to persons well-qualified to teach African American and women’s literature.[9] He also was a member of the Black Student Union Task Force established in 1979. 
In the 1990s Hart was heavily involved in minority student affairs. He served on the advisory committees for the Mentorship Program and the Gateway Program. He was Chair of the Minority Experience Committee when the “Halloween Incident” occurred in 1993.[10] In response to this incident, Chancellor Johnson asked Hart to chair a task force to hold hearings and develop recommendations for improving the multicultural climate.

After UMN Morris

Nathaniel Hart continued to live in Morris following his retirement from the university. But he and his partner Vicki Graham also built a summer writing retreat on the Elk River in Oregon. He remained interested in and committed to the environment, presenting papers to the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. He also wrote a column for the Morris Newspaper titles “On This Earth” and remained committed to sound land use planning in Southern Oregon.[11] He died on January 16, 2017.

Thomas Harren
Stephen Gross (editor)
Naomi Skulan (editor)


[1] Nathaniel I Hart, “ Curriculum Vitae”, February 7, 2000.
[2] Morris Sun Tribune, January 21, 2017, p.4
[3] See, for example, Hart’s essays: “Beyond the Portrait: George Barker’s ‘To My Mother” Contemporary Poetry: A Journal of Criticism. vol. iv, no. 2, (1981), 47-53; “Using the Personal Journal in Teaching Literature,” Reading Improvement. 9 (Winter, 1972) 87-89 and “Browning’s ‘The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church”’ The Explicator. 29 January, 1971.
[4] UMM Archives, Nathaniel Hart Personal Papers, Box 1.
[5] Nathaniel I Hart, "Curriculum Vitae" February 7, 2000, p.16, UMM Archives
[6] UMM Archives, Nathaniel Hart Personal Papers, Box 1.
[7] Nathaniel I Hart, "Curriculum Vitae" p.2, UMM Archives
[8] Nathaniel Hart, “A Retrospective” p. 4, Nathaniel Hart Personal Papers, Box 1, UMM Archives
[9] Nathaniel Hart, “A Retrospective”, April 19, 2001, p 4, Nathaniel Hart Personal Papers, Box 1, UMM Archives
[10] More information on the Halloween Incident can be found in “Wrestlers Charged with Terrorizing Black Teammates”, AP News (New York, NY), 12/10/1993.
[11]  “In Memoriam: Nat Hart,” Association for the Study of Literature and Environment, 2017,

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