John Foster West, M.A.



Dr. Richard D. Howe, “John Foster West, M.A.,” Appalachian State University Libraries Digital Collections, accessed May 23, 2024,

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John Foster West, M.A.


Appalachian State University
Universities and colleges--Faculty


Dr. Richard D. Howe




Biographical sketches


Boone (N.C.)

Spatial Coverage

Temporal Coverage



Professor Emeritus

Biographical Text

Professor Emeritus of English John Foster West (December 10, 1918-) is one of eight children born to Fanny Elvira Foster and John Wilson West of Wilkes County, North Carolina. He graduated from Morganton High School in 1938 and from Mars Hill Junior College, Mars Hill, North Carolina, in 1942. He served in the United States Air Corps from 1943 to 1946. West received both his A.B. degree in journalism (1947) and his master's degree in English (1949) from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. On January 15, 1944, West married Nan Elizabeth Love, now deceased, of Charleston, South Carolina. The Wests had three children: Bettie Sue ("Betsy"), born November 24, 1944; Leah Clarice, born February 23, 1956; and John Kimrey, born January 26, 1958. Following his wife's death in April 1966, West reared his three children alone. In 1949, West began his teaching career at Elon College, Elon, North Carolina, where he established a creative writing program. He reached the rank of professor before leaving Elon in 1958. From there he moved to the College of William and Mary, Norfolk, Virginia (now Old Dominion University), where he founded the journalism program and taught journalism and creative writing. In 1968, Appalachian State University invited West to establish a creative writing program at the university and to teach the subject. Promoted to the rank of professor in the College of Arts and Sciences in 1978, he was nominated as professor of the year in 1988. West retired as professor emeritus of English on January 1, 1990. Upon his retirement, he established and endowed the John Foster West Writing Prize and was invited to be a member of the Chancellor's Committee. West's writing career began at an early age, his first short story was published while he was still in high school. His many publications include the following works: Cogito, Ergo Sum (West's first book of poetry) published in 1952. Time Was (a Pulitzer Prize nominee) Random House Publishers, 1965. (Louisiana State University Press now has a copy of this and is considering republishing it in their series, "Voices of the South.") The Ballad of Tom Dula, a folklore study. Appalachian Dawn, a sequel to Time Was. This Proud Land, a free verse/pictorial collaboration with Southern Living magazine's photographer Bruce Roberts, which celebrates the Blue Ridge. Wry Wine, a second collection of poetry. The Summer People, which won the first Appalachian Fiction Award from the Appalachian Consortium Press and was published in 1989. Lift Up Your Head, Tom Dooley, May 1993. High Noon in Pompeii, Parkway Publishers, Inc., 2003 West has also had his poem "Ann Frank" published in the international anthology Beyone Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust (Northwestern University Press), and another of his poems appears in the national anthology When a Lifemate Dies. In 1995, West was honored as "Writer of the Year" by the North Carolina Writers Conference held in Southern Pines, North Carolina. On December 10, 1997, St. Andrews Presbyterian College in Laurinburg, North Carolina, presented West with the twelfth annual Fortner & Community Award for his writing and contributions to creative education in North Carolina. Since his retirement, West's travels have taken him to many countries in Europe and to Greece, Morocco, Egypt, Israel, and Canada. He has toured the wild animal parks in Kenya and has returned to Greece for a second tour-this time of the historical and mythological inland of the country. West visits a resort in Mexico on the Caribbean every February to get off the cold crest of the Blue Ridge, and, in 1999, he joined other Appalachian Alumni on a cruise which traveled along the Inner Passage of Alaska. West panned for gold in Juneau (and got some) and crossed over the mountains of the Yucon Territory for a day's visit. Sources: Appalachian State University files, long association, and personal correspondence. -Dr. Richard D. Howe

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