Faculty Spotlight: Tom Montgomery Fate

Tom Montgomery Fate

Tom Montgomery Fate
Program: English

While an eighth grader in Maquoketa, Iowa, Tom Montgomery Fate first realized the power of writing.

"I wrote a one-page description for my teacher, Miss Hermans -- of a walk through a snowstorm in the Iowa countryside," he said. "She had me record it and listen to my recording—to what my voice did with the words. Then I revised it and recorded it again. And listened again. It was the first time I understood that writing is an art, and a way of living –– a way to attend to the world with compassion and wonder."

Montgomery Fate has since sharpened his skills as a writer, earning his bachelor's degree in English Education and a master's degree in writing, both from the University of Iowa. He then taught freshman composition at the University of Illinois at Chicago while earning a master's degree in religion from the Chicago Theological Seminary.

He is the author of five books, including the collection of essays "Beyond the White Noise" and the spiritual memoir "Steady and Trembling." His latest book is the acclaimed "Cabin Fever: A Suburban Father's Search for the Wild," of which Publishers Weekly wrote, "There are real gems of insight and wit on the diverse topics ... Never snide or condescending, Fate blends the significant milestones of marriage and family in a high-tech BlackBerry society with the joys and shortcomings of being mindful in both cultures."

His essays have appeared in such publications as the Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, Orion, Iowa Review and Christian Century and they have aired on National Public Radio and Chicago Public Radio.

While his own writing continues to flourish, Montgomery Fate passes along the lessons he's learned to his English students at College of DuPage, hoping to inspire them as he was once inspired by his teachers.

"I want them to learn the art of the sentence, and of the paragraph, and of the essay, and to find some sense of their own 'voice' in that process," he said. "On a larger scale, I would also hope they learn more about themselves, and that they begin to identify and explore their individual passion — that one strand of their 'education' that they love enough that they will follow it no matter where it leads. This might be literature or the piano or automotive repair or economics or law enforcement or watercolor painting.

"I'm inspired by the craft of many writers: Willa Cather, William Stafford, Marilynne Robinson, Langston Hughes, Ted Kooser and Scott Sanders are a few that come to mind. And by the ideas of many artists and activists and intellectuals: Henry David Thoreau, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Rachel Carson, Abraham Heschel and many others. And by my colleagues here at COD, who are some of the most gifted teachers I've ever encountered. And by my students, whose ideas and curiosity and widely varied life experiences have taught me much about what it means to be a teacher, and the response-ability that we both share."

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