Richard Scowcroft

Creative writer and writing teacher Richard Scowcroft was born on June 26, 1916, in Ogden, Utah. He was the youngest of eleven children in his family, and the first to graduate college after earning a BA from the University of Utah in 1937. Though himself a novelist with six major works to his name, today Scowcroft is best known for his work with Stanford University’s creative writing program, which he co-founded with Wallace Stegner and then helmed after Stegner’s retirement. Scowcraft often credited the themes of his creative work and the ethos of his mentorship to his upbringing in the LDS Church. 

After Scowcroft graduated from the University of Utah, he bought a ticket for world travel with the money his family had given him as a graduation gift, then spent two years traveling Europe at his own pace rather than futilely hunting for jobs during the Great Depression. With WWII looming when he returned, Scowcroft chose to apply for graduate school rather than a full-time job, since he thought he would be drafted soon anyway; after being accepted to Harvard, though, he went on to earn his MA in 1941 and his PhD in 1946, both in English. He accepted a position as assistant professor of English at Stanford the next year. While at Stanford, he helped build their new Creative Writing Program, chaired dozens of dissertation committees, and served as department chair before his retirement. He taught and mentored numerous important and successful authors, including writer and environmental activist Wendell Berry, legal affairs novelist Scott Turow, novelist Ken Kesey, and first-wave feminist Tillie Olsen, among others. 

While his teaching and leadership at Stanford often came to the forefront, Scowcroft’s own creative writing included six novels, some semi-autobiographical and many of them following their protagonists’ coming of age during the 1940s and 1950s: the first was also written during Scowcroft’s own years as a PhD student at Harvard while juggling coursework and teaching for US troops before their WWII deployment. This novel, Children of the Covenant (1945), stirred controversy in Utah at the time of its publication, as it explores conflicts between modern society and LDS faith and heritage. His later novels also often utilized LDS subjects or dealt with LDS-inspired themes. The Ordeal of Dudley Dean (1969) follows an LDS man returning to Salt Lake City after 20 years away, and attempting to raise his own son differently than he had been. Three of Sowcroft’s other novels – First Family (1950), Wherever She Goes(1966) and Back to Fire Mountain (1973) – all focus on families struggling to maintain themselves, while A View of the Bay (1955) follows its protagonist trying to understand a childhood friend’s suicide several years prior. While most of these novels treat with serious themes and contentious issues, Scowcroft also brought a trademark comic tone and approach to his writing, particularly in later works. 

Scowcroft married his wife, Anne Kendall Scowcroft, in 1948, and they had three sons together before Anne died in 1992. Scowcroft died in 2001 at his home in Stanford, California, after several years of debilitating health issues. 


Archival papers


Short Story Collections (edited)
• The Writer’s Art, co-edited with Borin Ilyin and Wallace Stegner, 1972
• Stanford Short Stories, co-edited with Wallace Stegner, 1951 – 1968

• Back to Fire Mountain, Little Brown, 1973
• The Ordeal of Dudley Dean, J.B. Lippincott, 1969
• Wherever She Goes, J.B. Lippincott, 1966
• A View of the Bay, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1955
• First Family, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1950
• Children of the Covenant, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1945