The late Don Prues leaves his mark

Hagedorn recounts finding her life’s calling through a transformative class

Beloved senior teaching English professor, Don Prues, touched the lives of many who went throgh Xavier. Through his
mentoring inside and outside the classroom, he was passionate about reducing the stigma around mental health issues.

I had the profound privilege of taking not only one, but two of Professor Prues’ classes. The first was a general English composition class during my first year, and the second a Literature and Moral Imagination class with a focus on mental illness during my sophomore year.

After receiving word from the university of his passing, my heart broke. He was such an inspirational and kind man who deserved to obtain more
from this life than he did at such a young age. However, I am a religious
woman and I know that he is now in extremely good hands and will be watching over you all with the warmth and light-heartedness that
he always possessed.

I’d like to share an excerpt from my final Lit and Moral paper that expresses some of the gratitude I have for Professor Prues.

“In the spring semester of 2016, I knew I had to complete a Literature and Moral Imagination class as an Occupational Therapy requirement. Although this occurs is technically a requirement, English 205 became anything but that for me. Luckily, I was waived into this class, and at that time, I had no idea how fascinating this class would end up being. Now reflecting back on
this semester, I would not have imagined the greater insight I would gain about the various mental health crises, from books like Lolita and Beautiful Boy and movies like Ordinary People and Girl, Interrupted, that affect so many different kinds of people in our past and present world.”

I go on to talk about the various stories we covered in this class, how they related to the ups and downs I was facing back then. I then finish with this:

“After getting into English 205 in the spring semester last year, I had a good feeling about this class because of not only the professor teaching the course, but also the topic that fascinates me so much. This course has been
nothing but insightful, and I would re-take this course in a heartbeat, or offer it to someone who may need to learn all the great lessons that I,
myself, have learned this fall semester.”

I would like to offer this paper, although it is not the most eloquently written, as a testament to Professor Prues and all the truly amazing lessons he shared with me over those two semesters. His Lit and Moral class was the spark to my growing passion for mental health.

With that said, I also would like to share with you an email I also received from him last year I put on at Xavier to ending the stigma around
mental illness.

Prues wrote, “I know this is a busy time of year, which makes what you did even more impressive. I just read the Newswire article and your comments, and I must say I am touched and inspired. You know destigmatizing mental illness is something I feel passionately about, and I must confess I’m all teared up now knowing that someone like you–who actually saw me cry when my dog died your first semester and listened to my issues with depression in Lit & Moral the following fall–has taken a strong interest in this as well. It’s a never-ending battle for most, and we are so not alone, like you said; the rub, of course, is most of us feel alone when we’re in the midst of depression. I won’t write much more. Just know I’m so proud of you and overjoyed that people like you exist on this planet. I admire you immensely. Thanks for being you and doing what you do! Peace and smiles to ya.”

As I share this email correspondence with you, I shed some tears because his thoughtfulness and kindness knew no boundaries and even in the smallest of ways, he could touch the hearts of many.

I remember getting this email and sharing it with my parents, expressing my joy for such a unique, but more importantly, genuinely sweet man. I also remember seeing him on campus during my junior or senior year, and although Professor Prues always had a meeting to rush off to, he took a few moments to catch up with me and ask me how I was doing.

Overall, I hope this letter gives you some comfort as you cope with the loss of such a wonderful man. He made my years at Xavier ones to remember, but more importantly, he changed my life and led me to discover what I
think is my calling in life.

My prayers and thoughts are with his family, and I am forever grateful to Professor Prues.