posted October 05, 2017
Author and Professor Emeritus Kamal Verma, PhD, held a talk and book signing October 5, 2017, at the John P. Murtha Center for Public Service and National Competitiveness on the Pitt-Johnstown campus.
Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar affectionately referred to the event as “Verma Night.”
Dr. Verma spent more than 40 years at Pitt-Johnstown, having retired as an English professor in 2011, and helped found the South Asian Literary Association.
“We are celebrating the great legacy of a great mind, a great professor who has touched many, many students,” Dr. Spectar said.
Verma was joined by former colleagues, current educators and students, and members of his family, including his son, Richard Verma, the former United States ambassador to India. Richard Verma told the audience about how his father moved from India to Canada and then to America.
“I think just giving you some snapshot into that story gives you some sense of the kind of person this is, who can take the courage to leave his home country, come off to two other countries and build a new home and a new future for his family,” Richard Verma said.
“We’ve all benefited from that. If we’ve had any success at all, it’s only because we’re standing upon his achievements, not only personally, but now professionally.”
Dr. Verma is a scholar of English Romanticism and South Asian literature.
Born in 1932 in Punjab, India, Kamal Verma obtained his Bachelor of Arts from Punjab University in 1951, Bachelor of Teaching from Agra University in 1953 and Master of Arts in English from Punjab University in 1958. In India, he was principal of a Teachers College until 1963, the year he left India to study for Specialist of Education (Ed S) at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, on Ford Foundation scholarship. He did his MA (1968) and PhD (1974) from the University of Alberta and joined the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown in 1971 as an assistant professor of English. He retired from UPJ as Professor of English in 2011, but served for another two years as Advisor to Pitt-Johnstown President Spectar and as editor of South Asian Review.
“The 42-some years I spent at UPJ were very eventful in many ways,” he said. “Some of my students in English literature are distinguished scholars in different parts of the country while others are well-established in their respective fields. I established a literary journal Backroads with Sarah Berret and Larry Abbott as early editors.”
Dr. Verma was one of the founding members of South Asian Literary Association, an allied organization of the Modern Language Association, and was editor of the South Asian Review for 13 years, having begun in 2000.
“I planned to use this opportunity to introduce my students to learn about the art of scholarly reading and writing and a large number of students greatly benefitted in learning how to read and write. But, more importantly, the journal put UPJ on an international map. I am greatly indebted to Dr. Spectar for having supported the South Asian Review all these years. It is noteworthy that Dr. Spectar’s unique contribution was recognized by the South Asian Literary Association.”
Dr. Verma was awarded the Distinguished Achievement Award in 2012 by the South Asian Literary Association.
Dr. Verma’s published works include:
He has also guest-edited a number of Journal of South Asian Literature stories devoted to Aurobindo Ghose and was associate editor for the language and literature section of the Encyclopedia of Hinduism and Indic Religions, 2011.
The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is marking its 90th anniversary well as the 50th year of the campus in its Richland Township location. Pitt-Johnstown was founded in 1927 and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” The distinctive combination of Pitt-Johnstown’s people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is the regional leader, educating for success in the Real World.