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Joyce Durham

Joyce Durham

Photo courtesy of: David Durham

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Essay contest is a true testament of love

Donor honors late wife by establishing essay contest in the Department of English

"I first met Joyce in the fourth grade. It was her birthday, and I can remember exactly what she was wearing. I knew she was the one," said David Durham.

Years passed, and Joyce and David continued on with their lives. It was not until they both graduated from Ohio University that the two alumni fell in love and married.

After many years together, Joyce Durham, a 1962 alumna who majored in English and graduated with a bachelor's degree in education, passed away in 2009. In memory of his late wife, David, who graduated in 1963 with a bachelor's degree in architecture, established the Dr. Joyce R. Durham Essay Contest in Literature.

The contest is open to all undergraduate English majors, and professors will have the opportunity to nominate students to enter. Contest winners will be acknowledged at a scholarship and honors ceremony in the spring. The prize awarded by the Department of English will total about $600.

Durham hopes this contest will help students create a long-lasting relationship with the University and remind others to pay it forward. The contest also provides students with an opportunity to showcase their writing outside of the classroom, according to Marsha Dutton, chair of the Department of English.

Known as a "wordsmith" to friends and family, Joyce taught American literature and technical writing with an emphasis on proper English at the University of Dayton for 25 years. Outside of teaching, she was always researching and analyzing what people were saying and meaning in their writing, said David.

When Joyce retired from the University of Dayton, her colleagues established a small essay contest in her honor. Through the Dr. Joyce R. Durham Essay Contest in Literature, David now continues that tradition at Ohio University.

The Durhams are stalwart supporters of OHIO. They established the David E. Durham Scholarship Endowment in keyboard studies, the Joyce Durham Scholarship in English, and the John J. Duffy Memorial Scholarship in biology. All of the scholarships recognize individual student accomplishments.  

"They have proven they are deserving of the award. It's about helping people more than anything else," David said.

As for the creation of the Dr. Joyce R. Durham Essay Contest in Literature, David said it is a testament of his love and admiration for his late wife: "Joyce was worth every honor I could bestow upon her."