JLH: You were among the first to graduate from the Faculty of Arts at UWaterloo. Can you talk a bit about the energy on campus at the time?
DN: In its early days, U of Waterloo was marked by a great sense of rivalry between faculties, especially Engineering (“plumbers”) and Arts (“artsies”), but also between U of W and Waterloo College, then Waterloo Lutheran and now Wilfrid Laurier University. There was also excitement about getting in on the ground floor of student organizations—in my case, the student newspaper The Coryphaeus (now Chevron), in other cases the jazz band, politics, or sports teams.
JLH: When you think back, what stands out from your English classes?
DN: W.K. Thomas’s first year English survey course was a formative experience. And Walter Martin’s twentieth-century British Lit. class and practical criticism class were most stimulating! The profs took us seriously as future discipline colleagues.
JLH: You were fortunate to teach abroad. How different was the experience from your own undergraduate education?
DN: In England, I held tutorials on Oxbridge lines: two students and I would meet once a week, and each student would alternate delivering a paper I had assigned in one of their Honours English courses, from Chaucer to the Moderns. Waterloo had prepared me well across the curriculum. At the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica I taught the same courses Walter Martin had taught me, Modern British lit. and practical criticism, and the Romantic Poetry class that W.K. Thomas had taught me. So that Waterloo experience made me feel more at home.
JLH: You’ve recently endowed two awards for English graduate students. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t pause here to say thank you on behalf of the English department!) Can you share with us what motivated your decision?
DN: One, I wanted to repay Waterloo for what it gave me. Second, I want to encourage humanities students not to listen to that glum talk about underemployment and being over qualified, but just go for it! Waterloo links literature with professional skills and that’s invaluable.
JLH: Finally, what are you currently reading for fun?
DN: Every day I read scenes from yet to be titled film scripts! I recently was awarded a scholarship from a Californian producer to do an online screenwriting course. Each day we submit a scene from our own script and have to critique each others’ scripts. It’s like being a reader of Dickens’ magazine installments!
For those interested in learning more about Dr. Nimmo’s late wife, Lea Vogel-Nimmo, for whom one of the two endowed awards is named, there is a wonderful 45 minute documentary online.