Kerygma: a UD publication’s lasting role in forming tradition

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"Kerygma has had a lasting influence on the University of Dallas. University of Dallas Photo.

To an unsuspecting University of Dallas student, the covers of the small magazines in Dr. Robert Dupree’s office, while quaintly beautiful and delicately weathered, blend in with the other titles in the stuffed bookshelves that cover all four walls.

A quick turn of the pages, however, reveals 55 years of UD history, with familiar names —  Eileen Gregory, John Alvis, and Louise and Donald Cowan — gracing its table of contents.

These volumes of “Kerygma,” a short magazine produced by UD students in the early 1960s, provide a look into the germinating cultural life of the university immediately following the arrival of the Drs. Cowan in the 1959-60 academic year.

“When the Cowans came … they used to invite students and faculty to their house,” Dupree said, recalling his sophomore year at the university. “Out of [our] discussions came the idea of a UD magazine, and I was asked to be editor. We would meet frequently [to work on the magazine]. The Cowans would serve food and drink, and the other faculty would be present if they could come. We would commission the articles from different people, and then we would read from what we had written so far, and the group would make suggestions.”

With its first issue printed in the spring of 1961, “Kerygma” was founded when the era of  little magazines was sweeping the U.S. and the United Kingdom, Dupree said.

“These were 50 pages or less,” Dupree said.

In the 50 pages of “Kerygma” were poems, essays, reviews, artwork and short fiction of UD students and faculty alike, a coexistence that no university publication has been able to duplicate since.

Dupree noted that although faculty submitted works, and the publication had an official faculty advisor in Dr. Louise Cowan, the magazine was student-run.

“The Cowans were our patrons and hosts,” Dupree said.

Their patrons were also, in a way, their predecessors.

Before coming to UD, the Cowans, as well as many of UD’s first professors and administrators, were involved in the publication of “descant,” a short magazine still in circulation at Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth.

Dr. Donald Cowan in particular was able to provide assistance with finding a company to print “Kerygma.”

He and his sisters had a printing company in Fort Worth, Dupree said, but to avoid a conflict of interest, he helped them choose a Dallas company to print the magazine instead — a multistep process.

“We didn’t have computers back then, so we had to type everything up on typewriters and then send them off to a typesetter, who would give us back galleys [long uncut and unbound scrolls],” Dupree said. “We’d make corrections and then get page proofs, and then we’d have [the magazine] printed at the shop. I’d pick them up — I was in charge of all of this, I had a car. It took a lot of time. I don’t think my replacement realized that.”

Dupree was also tasked with naming the magazine.

“I was the first student here to take Greek — I was tutored by the president then,” Dupree said. “Back at the time, kerygmatic theology, or the proclamation of the Incarnation and the Resurrection, was big. But I didn’t want the theological sense at all, but instead the meaning ‘heralding.’ We were heralding the complete recreation of intellectual culture at UD. There was a burgeoning atmosphere with these discussion groups [out of which the magazine grew], and it was very exciting … It was my introduction into what the intellectual life should be.”

“Kerygma” almost immediately gained nationwide attention through the “Abstracts of English Studies” literary journal.

“When the first issue [of “Kerygma”] was published, I sent a copy of our first printing in to [“Abstracts”], not thinking anything would come out of it,” Dupree said. “We were abstracted right along with the “Sewanee Review” and the “Southern Literary Review” all the way to the end of our run.”

“Kerygma” continued biannual publication until the spring of 1966, at which point Dupree had returned to the university as a professor and as the magazine’s faculty advisor.

“We couldn’t keep it up,” Dupree said. “The founding of the graduate school in 1966 made its demise inevitable because the faculty was just overwhelmed with all this extra work … We’d made no new hires.”

Dupree collaborated with current professors of English, then-students Bainard Cowan and Eileen Gregory on “screed” in 1968; however, this project only produced one issue.

Dupree does not anticipate any attempts to revive either “Kerygma” or “screed”.

“The circumstances would be hard to replicate,” Dupree said. “UD was much smaller, and the Cowans were the ones who initiated the hospitality. Really, since the Cowans only had one child, and he was 12, they had the freedom to do all this. They were nearby … almost but not quite within walking distance, only a 3-4 minute drive.”

“Kerygma” lives on not only in the UD Digital Commons, but also in Dupree’s office in upstairs Catherine in hard copy: quaintly beautiful and delicately weathered, but brimming with robust history and testaments to a vivid intellectual life still present at the university.

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