USC College’s W. Ross Winterowd, renowned teacher and author in the field of rhetoric, died after complications with pneumonia on Jan. 21 in Huntington Beach, Calif. He was 80.
Winterowd, the Bruce R. McElderry Professor Emeritus of English, joined USC College’s Department of English in 1966 and remained a dedicated teacher, mentor and academic even after his retirement in 1996.
He founded the USC College doctoral program in rhetoric, linguistics and literature, which he directed from 1972 to 1984 and from 1987 to 1995. Winterowd also served as director of the freshman composition program from 1974 to 1980.
“A westerner lacking in academic pretensions, Ross Winterowd created one of the finest interdisciplinary doctorates in the university, combining courses from English, linguistics and rhetoric into a highly respected Ph.D. program, the best of its kind in the nation,” said Edward Finegan, professor emeritus of linguistics and law.
Jim Kincaid, Aerol Arnold Chair in English and Professor of English, remembers Winterowd as not only a seminal figure in composition and rhetoric studies, but as a man of legendary kindness to colleagues and students alike.
“He turned his office key over to students, who were welcome to use his books and notes; he employed his flexible and savvy wit to help guide the department and the program in rhetoric, linguistics and literature that he founded; and he was a warm and sensitive companion,” Kincaid said.
Throughout his long academic career, Winterowd wrote more than 50 articles and authored, co-authored or edited more than a dozen books including The Contemporary Writer (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1975), English Writing Skills (Coronado Publishers, 1997), The English Department: A Personal and Institutional History (Southern Illinois University Press, 1998), and most recently, Attitudes: Selected Prose and Poetry (Parlor Press, 2010).
Winterowd’s 2007 book, Senior Citizens Writing: A Workshop and Anthology (Parlor Press), was inspired by his experiences leading writing classes for seniors, which he began in 1997. Introduced by Winterowd, the book contains stories by his workshop students, many of whom had not written creatively in decades, if ever.
In 1989, Winterowd was honored with an award in his name by the Journal of Advanced Composition, for which Winterowd was an editorial board member. The W. Ross Winterowd Award for the most outstanding book in composition theory has been presented annually since 1989.
Among his distinctions, Winterowd was the recipient of the USC Emeriti Center and Emeriti Center College’s Honorary Borchard Lectureship in 1998, which honors Emeriti professors who exemplify a lifetime of scholarly production. In 2010, the Conference on College Composition and Communication (CCCC) presented Winterowd with the CCCC Exemplar Award recognizing his years of service as a model for the organization and representing the highest ideals of scholarship, teaching, and service to the entire profession.
Born on Jan. 24, 1930, in Salt Lake City, Utah, Winterowd received his bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in 1952; served in the United States Army from 1953 to 1955; and earned his Ph.D. from The University of Utah in 1965.
Before joining USC College, he taught at the University of Montana from 1962 to 1966. Winterowd served as visiting professor at Ohio State University, University of Oregon, University of Iowa and University of Arizona. In 1996, he was both Rufus Putnam Visiting Professor at Ohio University and Distinguished Visiting Professor at Loyola Marymount University.
Winterowd is survived by his sons, Geoffrey and Anthony Winterowd.
A public memorial will be held on Feb. 26 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the Huntington Beach Central Library.