Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative will continue its lecture series with “Intersections Between Myth, Imagination, and Literature” on November 17 from 4:00 to 5:00 p.m. in IUP’s Jane Leonard Hall room 305.

The program is free and open to the community and will also be offered via Zoom.

The program will include three presenters:

  • Mingle Moore, professor at Prairie View A&M University, “The Eternal Struggle: Dreaming of an Absolution.” Her presentation will ask questions about how myth conveys important dimensions of human experience and how nineteenth-century poets present myth to a wide range of readers.
  • Haleigh Hayes, IUP English graduate student, “Aeschylus’ Prometheus and the Olympian Regime: The Act of Rebellion in Ancient Greek Tragedy,” a discussion of how the performance of myth in Greek tragedy transmit and enforce culturally specific values and imaginative attitudes.
  • Joshua Calandrella, faculty member at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and IUP English graduate student, discussing “Mytho-poetic Arrangements of the Alef-Beis/t: The Vitality of Loyshn Koydesh (Holy Language) Illuminated by Chassidus,” addressing the questions of how sacred letters are more than just the components of words, and does thinking about sacred letters as mythological subjects, perhaps even non-human people, enable people to express and imagine sacredness.

The Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative is designed to be a dynamic, cross-disciplinary resource for students and faculty that will enhance the on-campus site where the study of myth is nurtured and supported, providing an exchange of ideas among faculty of diverse departments, offering seminars and workshops on myth, and designing cocurricular courses.

IUP dedicated the Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative space, located in Jane Leonard Hall outside the Department of English, in April 2021.

In addition to campus collaboration, it is hoped that programming and initiatives will be developed across the State System of Higher Education and throughout western Pennsylvania.

“The Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative has helped support a diverse range of student research projects and presentations including internships, coursework on myth and fairy tales, and a number of scholarly articles,” said Department of English Chairman and Distinguished University Professor Gian Pagnucci. “The English Department’s 2024 New Growth Arts Review student literary magazine will have a myth theme, and the department’s 2024 English Graduate Organization Annual Conference will also feature a number of myth-focused panels. The Myth Collaborative has been a spark for student imagination and productivity ever since we received a substantial gift from donor Blane Dessy,” Pagnucci said.

The Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative is named in honor of Blane Dessy, a 1973 graduate, and IUP Professor Emerita of English, Rosaly DeMaios Roffman.

In December 2019, IUP’s Council of Trustees approved the naming of the Collaborative in recognition of Dessy’s “transformative” gift of $100,000 to establish the Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative, honoring Roffman’s influence on Dessy’s life. The resolution noted that Roffman’s impact “kindled his passion for literacy and growth.”

Dessy, who retired in 2021 from his position as executive director of the Erie County Public Library, has a distinguished career in the field of library science, serving as the director of library staff at the United States Department of Justice and as executive director of national enterprises at the Library of Congress.

Roffman, of Pittsburgh, an internationally acclaimed poet and writer, taught literature and creative writing in the English Department from 1967 to 2003 and founded the IUP Center for the Study of Myth and Folklore in the 1970s. In 2002, Roffman donated more than 170 books to IUP to establish the Rosaly DeMaios Roffman Collection for the center.

The centerpiece of the Collaborative’s physical space is a suite of four ceramic pots, The Four Virgins of the Black Elk Vision, created by poet, artist, and educator Mary Caroline (M.C.) Richards. The suite was gifted to Roffman by Richards, who was a teacher, friend, and mentor to Roffman; Roffman donated the suite to IUP’s University Museum in 2016.

The space also includes four paintings by IUP 2018 art graduate Jordan Hershberger, a series of classical mythological creatures with the letters M, Y, T, and H—Cerberus (guardian of Hades), a dragon, a phoenix and a unicorn.

In addition to her work in the classroom, Roffman is known internationally as a poet and author.

She is the recipient of numerous awards, including a Distinguished Faculty Award in the Arts from IUP, a Witter-Bynner Foundation award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and fellowships at the Cummington School of the Arts, the Vermont Studio Arts Colony, and the Edward Albee Inter-arts/Writing Center.

Her works include the prize-winning Life on the Line: Selections on Words and Healing, Going to Bed Whole, Tottering Palaces, The Approximate Message, and In the Fall of the Sparrows. She has read her poems throughout the world and at three World Congresses of Poets and has authored and edited numerous publications in journals, magazines, and anthologies. Her latest book of poems, I Want to Thank My Eyes, was published in May 2012.

At IUP, she collaborated with Holly Boda-Sutton, professor of dance, and composer David Berlin, on a dance performance by the IUP Dance Theater, “Triptych: Three Ways, Three Words,” in April 2012. Roffman and Boda-Sutton also collaborated on “Out of the Deep,” an original dance work based on Roffman’s poems from her experience with a pod of whales off the coast of Mexico. The IUP Dance Theater performed this composition at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in 2010.

Roffman is the facilitator of the Squirrel Hill Poetry Workshop, established in 1978, the longest-standing writers’ workshop in Pittsburgh. She is also a George Orwell scholar and discovered some of his lost works.

During her tenure at IUP, Roffman edited and contributed to the development of many journals, including Aristeia, Athaena, and the New Growth Arts Review. She also briefly chaired and helped to develop the early interdisciplinary Asian Studies Program. 

Roffman was honored by the Department of English with the establishment of the Rosaly Roffman Innovation Award, honoring student works in multi-genre or multimedia.

Dessy has remained connected to the university since his graduation and is chair of the College of Arts and Humanities Advancement Council.

In 2016, he donated funds for the design and construction of the “Sutton Bench” by students in IUP art professor BA Harrington’s advanced woodworking class.

Dessy’s gift to establish the Collaborative was part of IUP’s Imagine Unlimited Campaign, which raised $81.36 million to enable IUP to step forward as a national leader by transforming the student experience through scholarships, program enhancements, and new and modernized facilities.