Please remember Dr. Donald Ringnalda, professor emeritus of English

Please remember Dr. Donald Ringnalda, professor emeritus of English

Dr. Donald Ringnalda, 62, an internationally renowned scholar of Vietnam War literature and a longtime professor of English at the University of St. Thomas, died of cancer Wednesday, June 27, in St. Paul.  

A Michigan native, Ringnalda spent, for all practical purposes, his entire teaching career at St. Thomas. He joined the faculty as an adjunct instructor shortly after earning his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Ohio University in 1975. He joined the full-time faculty as an assistant professor in 1983 and was named “professor emeritus” in May.

Military service during the Vietnam War informed Ringnalda’s scholarly work, especially a book on Vietnam War literature, Fighting and Writing the Vietnam War (University of Mississippi Press, 1994), which earned national and international recognition.

“His experience as a Vietnam-era military vet shaped his abhorrence of militarism, imperialism and racism,” said Dr. Andrew Scheiber, chair of the university’s English Department. “He encouraged his students to grasp ethical links between literary study and social justice.”

Ringnalda also was an architect of the university’s Common Text Program in 1985. Each year since then, the St. Thomas English Department has selected texts that all freshmen read in their literature classes. Texts selected each year are based on literary merit and the books' portrayals of racial, cultural, economic and ethnic diversity.

Ringnalda was a member of the American Culture Association, the Midwest Modern Language Association and the Modern Language Association. He taught courses in American and British literature, but his specialties in addition to Vietnam War literature included Native American literature and works by authors ranging from Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne to Kurt Vonnegut.

To his friends Ringnalda was a craftsman and artist as well as an expert fisherman, chef and cabinet maker. An accomplished pianist and organist, he was an ardent supporter of local jazz and a friend to musicians and staff alike at the Dakota and other venues.

He is survived by his wife, Jonelle, and other family members.

A memorial celebration is planned at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, in the O'Shaughnessy Room of O'Shaughnessy-Frey Library Center on the the St. Paul campus, followed by a musical tribute at 5 p.m. at the Artists' Quarter, 408 St. Peter Street, St. Paul. Memorials are preferred to Veterans for Peace.

All friends, colleagues and students are welcome.