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Sandra Maresh Doe, Ed.D., has stories to tell about Metropolitan State University of Denver. She’s taught here since the school was founded in 1965, so she’s literally seen it all. Yet, one recent story sticks in her mind.
“A student appeared in my doorway, very distraught,” she recalled. “So, I started talking to him, and after a while, I suggested we walk over to the counseling center together.”
At the time, she didn’t think much of the exchange. But not long after that, the student showed up in one of her writing classes. It turns out he’d been dealing with some major challenges, including sleeping in his car. He came up to Doe after class and thanked her for being “a good human.”
“I’m so glad I still have that responsiveness,” said Doe. “As faculty here, we have to be responsive to human needs. We’re an urban university with open admission, so we encounter a lot of real people with real struggles.”
Doe has been responding to the needs of MSU Denver students for 50 years. She was one of the first 35 professors hired by the then-college in 1965. She was studying for her master’s degree in literature when she applied to MSU Denver as a way to “pay the bills,” but quickly fell in love with the students and mission. She remembers those early years as a time of great excitement and collaboration between students and faculty. One of her fondest memories is being part of a nonsexist, anti-racist improvisational theater group that featured both students and faculty members.
Over the years, Doe has developed something of a fan club among students and alumni who connect with her as a teacher and person. Tameca L. Coleman, who graduated in 2009, counts herself among that group. Coleman took several classes with Doe in her time at the University and currently works as writer and editor.
“Sandy has such a passion for poetry, nature writing and everything she teaches,” said Coleman. “She’s touched so many lives and really encouraged me to stay on the writer’s path.”
Former student and current English Department colleague, Christina Angel, Ph.D., describes Doe as “one of the most fearless women” she knows. She remembers a lesson learned from Doe in a poetry workshop. Every poem she submitted came back with great comments, but a B grade. When she asked Doe about it, Doe replied that getting an A might make her stop working so hard.
“It’s one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned,” said Angel, “and one I still use with my own students.”
When Doe isn’t teaching aspiring writers, she diligently hones her own craft. She’s published six books of poetry, and contributed fiction, non-fiction and poetry to a variety of publications. An avid traveler, much of her poetry is inspired by her adventures on the road. To share her commitment to writing, Doe founded MSU Denver’s Writing Center, which she counts as one of her biggest achievements. She recently was honored by President Stephen M. Jordan with the MSU Denver Champion Award for 50 years of service to the University.
“If I really think about why I’ve stayed here all these years, it’s because of the students,” she said. “They come to class for the new semester and they each bring something special with them, their own unique story.”