According to Han Yu, Ph.D. ’07, students visiting English Professor Gerald Savage for a planned 20-minute conference often end up spending an hour and a half due to his genuine interest in their education. “As I was working on my dissertation, Savage would put aside his own work and research to review drafts, give thought-provoking comments and, yes, make his famous 20+ additional references list for me to check out—after each review,” said Yu.
Yu, who is an assistant professor in writing and professional communication at Kansas State University, said she owes much of her academic progress and professional development to Savage as he was her professor in many classes and a mentor, advisor and dissertation chair during her doctoral graduate studies. “He is so dedicated to his students, and he demands utmost dedication from them, but I learned the most from working with him and being able to expand my work in so many ways that would not have been possible without Dr. Savage,” Yu said.
Savage, a recent recipient of the Jay R. Gould Teaching Award from the Society for Technical Communication for which Yu nominated him, says he keeps in touch with many former students, usually during their job searches, and especially those who are working in his field of technical communication. “I find that my former students can tell me about new developments in our rapidly changing field prior to any discussion of such developments in professional conferences and journals,” Savage said. “Former students have been generous in helping me with my research on technical communication practices in industry by helping me make contacts. In fact, my first book includes contributions by four former students. I also invite former students to join me on conference panels and committees for professional organizations.”
Savage came to Illinois State in 1994 after completing his Ph.D. at Michigan Technological University and serving as the assistant to the director of First Year English at Michigan Tech. Prior to that, he was a community school coordinator and site supervisor for the peer tutoring program in Fairbanks, Ala. At Illinois State, he serves as director of the English Studies Internship Program and Technical Communication Program. Besides editing and writing books and articles for professional journals, chairing many professional committees, presenting at and organizing conferences, Savage also writes poetry and does peer reviewing for professional journals.
Savage said Yu was a delightful doctoral student who “quickly grasped not simply the basic point, but also the larger implications, and one who worked very hard, very quickly and very effectively without seeming to be overworked.” He added that “Han Yu will be a credit to Illinois State in her teaching, scholarship and service to higher education.”
Yu said Savage is a great mentor with a solid commitment to teaching and advising. “What I enjoy the most about Dr. Savage is his willingness to candidly share his life experiences, whether those are shining moments or wondering times,” she said. “He has this unmistakable narrative style that fills his life stories with warmth and down-to-earth philosophies—stories that I can relate to and find comfort from and use to keep my spirits high during trying times.”