She grew up in a house just two blocks from campus. She earned her Master of Arts in Teaching in 1976 and soon after taught her first freshman English class that included a young Brian May (ASU president). After starting her family and earning her Ph.D., she returned in 1992 and remained on the faculty until retiring in 2016.
“I loved the size of ASU,” Hartje said. “I had no desire to be at a large university. I liked that I could have a relationship with my students. I loved teaching. I’m happy that I had all my experiences at ASU, but nothing was more important than teaching and being a mentor to my students. I miss them every day.”
But what Hartje never misses is the ASU Writers Conference in Honor of Elmer Kelton. She helped create the annual event in 1996, remained on the committee until 2011, and still attends every year. She even started an ASU endowment to help fund future installments.
“Elmer Kelton was one of the most extraordinary people I ever met,” Hartje said. “We created the Writers Conference to showcase him, and then we decided to continue the conference every year in his honor. He was always there, and I felt such a loyalty to him. Plus, I passionately believe in how the Writers Conference benefits the students, and I want it to endure.”
I liked that I could have a relationship with my students. I loved teaching.
Dr. Mary Ellen Hartje
Now a Professor of English Emerita, Hartje lives just three blocks away and still regularly attends campus events and visits her former colleagues. She is also in the process of opening a downtown bookstore, Old Town Books, where she will offer ASU internships and employment opportunities.
Previously honored with the ASU Alumni Association’s 2008 Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award, Hartje has now been named the 2019 Outstanding Retired Faculty.
“I was very surprised because I feel like a newbie in the retirement community,” she said. “If you’ve given your entire professional self to a place, then to have them honor you is quite fulfilling. It’s a delightful honor.”