Faculty Profile: Phillip LaMarche



Jaclyn Cohen

During his short tenure at Colgate, English Lecturer Phillip LaMarche has been an asset to the Department of English and students alike. He has found his own experience just as rewarding.

“[My students are] talented and eager for new ideas, open-minded and hard working,” he said, “[and my colleagues are] both inspiring and insightful.”

As an undergraduate at Syracuse University, LaMarche originally intended to be an engineering major. He soon discovered, that field was not for him.

“I got through two semesters,” LaMarche said, “and then over the summer I had an internship at IBM where I spent everyday, all day, staring at the computer. I kind of freaked out that this was going to be the rest of my life.”

LaMarche was contemplating dropping out of college, and was on his way to the registrar’s office to do so when he resolved to become an English major.

“In the back of my head I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer, but I had come from a household where I could only go to college for one thing,” he said. “I realized it was more than just a major, that it was my life.”

Intending to be a high school English teacher, LaMarche declared a dual English and education major, but he found that his attention was diverted from the courses that truly interested him and thus never completed his education requirements.

After graduating with a BF in English, LaMarche moved back to his hometown in Colorado and worked various odd jobs in construction. Discovering that such a structured job inhibited the amount of time he could devote to composing stories, he returned to Syracuse as a writing fellow in their University Graduate Creative Writing Program where he received his BFA.

He has since taught classes at Syracuse University and the State University of New York, and last year he was nominated for the National Society of Collegiate Scholars Faculty of the Year award.

LaMarche also spent the preceding year living in France. This past summer, he was granted the Ivan Klima Fellowship in Fiction in Prague and a Summer Literary Seminars fellowship in St. Petersburg. During these experiences he was able to receive assistance on his current novel Now Go Home, which he described as “a coming-of-age story about guilt and redemption.”

This is not to be LaMarche’s first piece of work to be published. His short story, “In the Tradition of My Family,” was printed in the spring 2005 edition of The Ninth Letter. This story has actually been adapted into a short film by Now or Later Productions and is set to be released soon.

LaMarche asserts that the key to success is perseverance and pure determination.

“Don’t worry about what you can’t do,” he said. “It’s a lot less about ‘talent’ and ‘ability’ than it’s about sheer stubborn drive.”

He encourages thought and disparate opinions among his students.

“I like to teach a classroom where I value everyone’s opinion,” he said. “Don’t take my word as, like, God’s word, because I’m just another voice in the classroom.”

As such, LaMarche feels that his role as a teacher largely consists of acting as a facilitator for his students’ writing.

“I think writing fiction is like anything you do, in that the only way to get better at it is to do more of it,” he said. “A large part of my role is just getting students to write more because a big part of it is just hard work.”

LaMarche plans on returning his focus to his own work once his semester teaching at Colgate has concluded.

“In order to advance in this field you have to get your work published,” he said, “so I’m going to focus on that.”