Donald M. Hassler is currently Professor of English. He reached that rank at Kent State in 1977 after hiring into the university at the rank of Instructor in 1965. He was educated at Williams College and Columbia University where he wrote his dissertation on the poems of Erasmus Darwin. He had taught for four years prior to coming to Kent at the catholic French-language university in Montreal, and his defense of his dissertation did not come until late in 1967. Following the May 4 shootings at the university and during the time when enrollments were crucial in Kent's recovery efforts, Hassler was asked to work up some teaching on modern science fiction. This grew from his interest in the relations of science and literature, and the work with science fiction has now grown to a major concern in his teaching and research. He has, also, always enjoyed administrative work at the university. In the twelve years from 1973 to 1985, he worked in the Honors and Experimental College, serving as Director of Experimental Programs as well as for one year following the death of Dean Feinberg as acting dean. In the English Department, he has served on two separate spans as Undergraduate Coordinator and for one term as Graduate Coordinator. From 1995 until the present (with a lapse of about 14 months) he has been an at-large representative to Faculty Senate, serving two years as secretary of the Senate. He has chaired several search committees and the most recent Chair-Review committee in the department. In the Kent community in the mid seventies, he co-chaired the Kent American Revolution Bicentennial Commission, which linked his interests in practical political work and in the 18th century.
In Canada, Hassler began to publish poems; and he published one short story in a Canadian magazine. His work in creative writing continued fairly vigorously during his first two decades working in Ohio. He was a member of the Ohio Poets Association and published many poems in their anthologies. Two books came out of his dissertation work on Erasmus Darwin, and he published many essays on 18th-century British literature. His first book on modern science fiction is titled Comic Tones in Science Fiction (1982). He won the Eaton Award for the best critical book on science fiction published in 1991 for his book on Isaac Asimov from that year. As co-editor with Clyde Wilcox, he has published two collections of essays on politics and science fiction with the University South Carolina Press, one in 1997 and the second in 2008. Working with his wife Sue Hassler, he did some archival work and published a selection of letters by the Welsh fantasist Arthur Machen. For nearly two decades concluding in 2007, Hassler was the prime editor of the journal Extrapolation, devoted to academic work on science fiction and fantasy. In 1985 here in Kent, he organized and hosted an international conference of the Science Fiction Research Association; and he has served as President and as Treasurer of that professional organization. In 2001, that organization awarded him the Thomas D. Clareson Award for service. In 1999, Hassler was one of the finalists for the Distinguished Scholar Award at Kent.
During the five-year time period for this departmental review, Hassler has directed one doctoral dissertation to completion- Brent Stypczynski on a topic in science fiction and fantasy; one M.A. thesis to completion- Josh Storey on a similar topic. The current graduate students that he is supervising are Youngho Cho, Jason Ellis, Stacey Hanes, and Peter Landino, though the last named seems to have dropped by the wayside. He also served on the M.F.A thesis committee for Jana Russ in poetry. He is now directing the Honors thesis for Hanna Brady, and during the time period did the same for Honors theses by Charles Cook, Richard Pope and Dennis Wise. The Writing Certificate students that he is advising now or has advised during the time period are Sarah Koby, Tia Gay, Sara DeNunzio, and A. Miller- the latter portfolio won the annual award for best writing portfolio. He also directed graduate assistant work for Iuliu Ratiu during the time period and wrote special letters for Anita Slack, Jessica Hefner, Nadia Zamin, and Alicia Durewicz. The latter two were undergraduates at the time of his help.
At the moment, Hassler cannot resolve in his mind when the best time for his inevitable retirement will be. In the meantime, the students and the work at the university still seem exciting to him.