Explore UAB

Faculty Excellence Mike Sloane February 19, 2024

 Ada Long, Professor of English Emerita Ada Long, Professor of English EmeritaAda’s passing is deeply felt by all of us here in the University Honors Program; by the many cohorts of honors students who participated in the program from 1983-2004 and who benefitted from her sage tutelage, unwavering support, and lasting friendship; and by our honors students who have been part of the program since her retirement, who have enjoyed the benefits of her visionary interdisciplinary arts and sciences curriculum and strong sense of community here in the Spencer Honors House, both of which remain in place to this day.

Ada was a native of St. Louis, Missouri. She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1967 from Stanford University, where she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. In 1971, she earned a Master of Arts degree in English from SUNY-Albany, where, in 1976, she also earned her Doctorate in English with a specialty in 18th-century British literature. She taught as an Instructor at the University of Cincinnati from 1974 to 1977 before coming to UAB in 1977 as an assistant professor of English. In 1980, she became an associate professor and began a two-year term as director of graduate studies in English. She was later be promoted to the rank of Professor in 1992.

In 1982, a university-wide committee chaired by Dr. Ted Benditt (Philosophy) explored the possibility of launching an Honors Program at UAB. The process resulted in the selection and appointment of Ada Long as inaugural director in October 1982. Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Tom Hearn, and the UAB administration gave Ada free reign to establish admissions procedures and design a curriculum quite different from other honors programs around the country. Dr. Hearn showed Ada a small duplex on 15th street, one of a few extant private houses that had survived demolition during UAB’s rapid expansion on the Southside. This became the honors home for the inaugural class of 33 students but would not suffice going forward with another class coming in. Ada and Debra Strother, her administrative assistant at the time, scouted other locations on campus and came across our old church which had been used as a practice facility by the Alabama Ballet, had housed the USGA offices temporarily, and also housed the Department of Art and Art History. Ada and others petitioned, in characteristic dogged fashion, for use of the house as a future home for the honors program. Her wish was granted with the caveat that the Department of Art and Art History remained in the building. The Summer of 1984 saw Ada and the honors students roll up their sleeves to scrape and paint all indoor surfaces, round up old furniture (old sofas from wherever and school desks from the UAB warehouse), and get the place usable with a day or two to spare before the 1984 cohort arrived.

The initial classes were about 30-35 students and they completed three interdisciplinary classes and two honors seminars. Eventually, class size would increase to about 50 students who completed two interdisciplinary classes and five honors seminars, as it remains today. Our students have enjoyed our unique interdisciplinary arts and sciences curriculum, which has received much national attention over the years and is characterized by a new interdisciplinary theme and a new slate of seminars every year.

Ada was an outstanding teacher both inside and outside of the classroom. She received the Ingalls Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1988 and Ingalls Recognition for Excellence in Teaching in the School of Humanities in 1979, 1980, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1988. In 2001, she received the Honorary Alumna Award from the UAB National Alumni Society. She was a wonderful mentor to students in the honors program, nurturing minds and souls with graceful caring, guidance, and sometimes with tough love, when necessary.

Ada played a critical role in securing funds for the renovation and modernization of the Honors House. UAB President Claude Bennett introduced her to William Spencer, who unlike many other potential donors Ada had met with, really understood the mission of the program and really enjoyed visiting the honors house. This relationship resulted in a major gift that funded the renovation and subsequent naming as the Spencer Honors House.

With four books and numerous published articles, Ada was a scholar in her own right. Her publications explored the fields of poetry, the arts, women’s literature, and honors education. She was past president of the UAB Chapter of the Alabama Conference of the American Association of University Professors. She was a long-term chair of the Truman Scholarship Selection Committee and a member of the Rhodes Scholarship Committee. A wonderful role model for her honors students, she was also active in the community. She was a past president and a member of the board of directors for Bread and Roses, a board member of the Birmingham Institute of Religious Studies, and founder and coordinator of the UAB Faculty Lecture Series at the Donaldson Maximum Security Correctional Facility. In 2000, she deservedly received the UAB Odessa Woolfolk Community Service Award. In 2022, Ada was honored with the UAB President’s Medal at the December Commencement ceremony in Bartow Arena.

In addition to her seminal contributions to honors education at UAB, Ada was a major leader in the regional (Southern Regional Honors Council) and national (National Collegiate Honors Council) professional organizations, completing a tenure as president of both organizations. In addition to the innumerable NCHC committees to which she contributed, Ada was a major contributor to the NCHC’s documents ‘Basic Characteristics of a Fully Developed Honors Program’ and the companion ‘Basic Characteristics of a Fully Developed Honors College,’ which have been foundational documents establishing desirable characteristics for successful honors programs and colleges. She served as a consultant reviewer to many honors programs across the country. Ada, along with Dail Mullins—her former Associate Director here at UAB and long-time companion in her retirement on St. George’s Island, who passed away a few years ago—served as Co Editors-in-Chief of NCHC’s two professional journals, the Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council (JNCHC) and Honors In Practice (HIP). Ada was awarded the NCHC’s Founder’s Award, the organization’s most prestigious honor, at the annual conference in 2017.

Ada retired from UAB in July 2004. She continued to attend the annual NCHC conferences and serve as editor of its two journals. Characteristically, she kept in touch with many of her former students and colleagues. Upon her retirement, the Ada Long Creative Writing Workshop, a three-week summer day camp for rising 9th – 12th grade students, was established to honor her legacy. Hosted by the University Honors Program at the Spencer Honors House, aspiring writers and poets work with nationally acclaimed novelists, essayists, and poets in small groups.

The University Honors Program, the College of Arts and Sciences community, the UAB community, the regional and national honors communities, and most of all, her former students and close colleagues, will miss her greatly.

The University Honors Program will be hosting a Celebration of Life event in honor of Dr. Ada Long at the Spencer Honors House on June 8, 2024. Further details will be available closer to the event.

Mike Sloane, Ph.D., is director of the University Honors Program and an associate professor of psychology


More News

  • UAB CORD cancer research program molds future leaders through experience and fostering of community
  • COVID-19 and Queendom: Bobba reflects on a unique collegiate and Blazer experience marked with resilience and community
  • Celebrating CAS Authors: 20 faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences published books in 2023

Back to Top