William Donald Spring

Black and white photograph headshot of William Donald Spring. He's wearing a button down shirt and glasses.

William Donald Spring was a longtime English professor at UMN Morris and was one of the 13 original faculty members. Spring came to UMN Morris in 1960 as a lecturer in English and chair of the Division of Humanities. He played an especially important leadership role on campus; he founded the writing room, was a long-time chair of the Humanities Division and was a mainstay on many UMN Morris committees. Spring retired from UMN Morris in 1996.


born on January 14 in Racine, WI

enlisted in the Army Air Corps

completed his B.A. from Marquette University 

married Evelyn C. Byrd

completed his M.A. from Marquette University and started teaching at Marquette 

began work toward a Ph.D. in English literature and worked as a part-time instructor at the University of Minnesota

started at UMN Morris as lecturer in English and chair of the Department of English [1]

promoted to associate professor of English

stepped down as chair of the Division of Humanities

retired from UMN Morris

died in North Oaks, MN on October 1

Personal Life

William Donald Spring (W. Don or Don) was born in 1925 in Racine, Wisconsin. At St. Catherine’s High School, he displayed early talent in journalism, editing the student newspaper.[2] After high school, Spring enrolled at Marquette University, but left after one year to serve in the Air Corps as a bombardier/navigator.[3] In 1946, Spring returned to Marquette and completed his B.A. Two years later he received his M.A.[4] While at Marquette, Spring became engaged to Evelyn Byrd, whom he married in 1950.[5]
Spring was an instructor of English at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1951 until 1955. In 1955 Spring began work towards his Ph.D. in English literature at the University of Minnesota, where he also taught on a part-time basis.[6] In 1959, Spring received the Danforth Teachers Grant to support him while he wrote his dissertation. He was then recruited by Rodney Briggs in 1960 to come to the University of Minnesota Morris.[7]


Research and Teaching

Spring’s academic interests included 18th century literature, particularly authors Faulkner, Dryden, Swift, and Pope.[8]  He also taught several courses on Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson, and Chaucer and he designed a course, The History of the English Language, which attracted significant numbers of future high school English teachers.[9] Spring loved films, and developed the first foreign film program at UMN Morris.[10] He was widely regarded as an excellent teacher.[11]

Campus Contributions

Spring first came to UMN Morris as a lecturer in English and acted as the first chair of the Division of the Humanities. As chair, Spring contributed greatly to the creation of majors on campus. The first instructor in English, he personally developed much of the early curriculum and was integral to the creation of the English major. From 1960-1963, Spring acted as the advisor for the Vanguard, UMN Morris’ student newspaper.[12] Another lasting legacy, Spring developed the UMN Morris Writing Room, now known as the Writing Center, which has helped students write at a college-level since its inception in 1974.[13] In 1970, Spring was promoted to associate professor of English and in 1980 he made the decision to step down as division chair to teach full time.[14]

Spring’s committee involvement included being chairperson of the curriculum committee, and he was an essential participant in the creation of the early curriculum.[15][16] In 1979, Spring was appointed to the Black Student Union Task Force in order to study the grievances of students of color on campus.[17] Spring also served as Vice Chair of the Faculty Assembly, as a member of the all-University Senate Planning Committee, and as part of the all-University Faculty Division Committee. During the Ken Keller administration he was asked to join an advisory board to help implement Keller’s Commitment to Focus.[18]

After UMN Morris

Spring retired from the University of Minnesota Morris in 1996.  After his retirement Spring and his wife Evelyn traveled extensively in Europe. He died on October 1, 2013.[19]

Lauren Solkowski
Stephen Gross (Editor)
Naomi Skulan (Editor)


 [1] In 1963, departments were replaced by divisions at the University of Minnesota Morris and Spring subsequently assumed the chair of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts.
[2] Spring, Donald, “Press Assures Clear Vision For Public, Says Boy Editor,” The Journal Times (Racine, WI), Oct. 3, 1941. 
[3] “Stars and Stripes,” The Journal Times (Racine, WI), June 23, 1943; “Personal Interviews: Mr. Spring,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), Oct. 13, 1960.
[4] “Personal Interviews: Mr. Spring,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), Oct. 13, 1960.
[5] “Social Notebook,” The Journal Times (Racine, WI), Sep. 1, 1950. 
[6] University of Minnesota Morris, “Spring Named Acting Chairman English Department—UMM,” (Morris, MN), Sep. 2, 1960.
[7] Dickman, Mary, “Spring resigns,” Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), Apr. 30, 1980. 
[8] “Personal Interviews: Mr. Spring,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), Oct. 13, 1960.  
[9] W. Donald Spring, interview by Charles Brunette, August 20, 1976, transcript, University Stories, West Central Minnesota Historical Research Center, Morris, MN.
[10] “Spring, W. Donald” Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Oct. 13, 2013.
[11] University of Minnesota, Morris Retirees’ Association, “UMMRA Info: Volume XVI, Number 3,” UMMRA Info (Morris, MN), 2014.
[12] "Vanguard Staff" Vanguard (Morris, MN), Mar. 2, 1962.
[13] “Writing Room Offers Help with Composition” Campus Community Writer (Morris, MN), April 14, 1975.
[14] Dickman, Mary, “Spring resigns,” Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), Apr. 30, 1980.
[15] “Major Curriculum Changes Approved,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), Jan. 18, 1963
[16] Finger, Richard, “’65-’67 Curriculum Will Be Changed,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), June 3, 1965.
[17] Davies, Vicki, “Task force action reviewed,”https://contentdm.morris.umn.edu/digital/collection/p17216coll1/id/4794/rec/1 Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), Nov. 14, 1979.
[18] “Faculty elects key officers,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), May 8, 1969 ; “Student – Faculty Committees,” Vanguard (Morris, MN), Oct. 9, 1968; Trisko, Juleen and Hoover, Evelyn “Spotlight on Professors: W.D. Spring,” Morris Weekly (Morris, MN), Feb. 18, 1987.
[19] “Spring, W. Donald” Star Tribune (Minneapolis, MN), Oct. 13, 2013.

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