The English department at Shippensburg University welcomed a new faculty member this year.
Professor Neil Connelly, 42, arrived at SU in the Fall 2010 semester and jumped into teaching fiction and poetry.
With the decision to move to Pennsylvania with his family, Connelly chose the open position because he admired SU’s faculty and the college’s endeavors.
“I looked on the Web-site and I was impressed with the faculty that is here,” he said. “They seem like cool, smart people doing cool, smart things. And you want that with your colleagues.”
Connelly also holds positions on department committees, searching for a new poetry professor and serving on a group that focuses on freshman composition.
He also advises The Reflector, the annual student literary magazine.
Connelly grew up in Allentown, Pa., and graduated from Penn State in 1990 with an undergraduate degree in advertising.
After a series of jobs as a copywriter, landscaper, bookstore employee and typesetter, he decided to go back to school.
He was accepted into the graduate program at McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La.
At MSU, Connelly earned a master’s degree in English and a masters in fine arts in creative writing. He also had the opportunity to work under Pulitzer Prize-winner Robert “Bob” Butler in the creative writing track.
After graduating from MSU, he taught at a community college in North Carolina, where he published his first of three books.
In “St. Michael’s Scales,” Connelly tells the story of a 16-year-old boy who is fighting feelings of guilt from his twin brother dying at birth. The young boy joins a wrestling team, an act that changes his life’s journey.
Connelly received the news that Butler had left MSU and his job position was open. With the credentials of a published book and English degrees, he obtained the job and remained at MSU for 10 years.
“I ended up directing the graduate program that almost didn’t let me in in the first place,” he said.
In 2004, Connelly published his second book, “Buddy Cooper Finds a Way,” focusing on the life of a father who has lived the “American Dream” but loses everything.
In 2010, Connelly’s third book, “The Miracle Stealer,” brought to light a deeper sense of being and purpose in life.
Connelly, his wife, Beth, and his two sons, Owen, 6, and James, 4, live in Camp Hill, Pa. As he talked about his family, his eyes shone with pride and his voice moved with love. His sons are his role models.
“I like that they choose joy a whole lot. I like that their first instinct is be intensely considerate…Amidst the turmoil in the academic day, I aspire to be more like them,” he said.