Don Welch remembered for poetry, inspiring UNK students

Don WelchKEARNEY – Don Welch, an award-winning Nebraska poet and longtime English professor at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, died Saturday at his Kearney home. He was 84.

Welch, who had a bronze sculpture dedicated to him on the UNK campus in 2001, taught at UNK from 1959-97 and authored several published poetry collections. He was a regular contributor to literary magazines.

He was the Martin Distinguished Professor of English and Reynolds Chair of Poetry at UNK. His many national honors included the prestigious Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry, judged by the poet William Stafford.

Don Welch Statue
Don Welch taught at University of Nebraska at Kearney from 1959-97. A bronze sculpture on campus was dedicated to him in 2001.

“Don Welch was a Nebraska icon who inspired countless students and readers of his poetry to master the English language and to eloquently and creatively express themselves,” said UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen. “He was a prominent figure at UNK for decades. It is difficult to imagine UNK without him. We salute him for a career and life well-lived and express our sympathy to his loved ones. We will miss you, Dr. Welch.”

In 1988, Welch received the Pratt-Heins Award for teaching, and in 1990 he received the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges Outstanding Teaching Award.

Although he officially retired from the English department in 1997, he continued to teach in the UNK Department of Philosophy until 2008.

Welch published more than 30 books of poetry, and more than 300 of his poems appeared in magazines and journals throughout the United States. Examples of his work have been included in many anthologies.

In addition, for 13 years he served as a Nebraska Arts Council Poet-In-Residence in the Nebraska Public Schools program, “Poets-in-the-Schools.” He also was a consultant and participant in the Nebraska Public Television documentary “Last of the One-Room Schools,” which was televised in 1995.

Born in Hastings, Welch spent his early years in Gothenburg and Columbus He graduated from Kearney High School and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Nebraska State Teachers College in 1954, Master of Arts degree from University of Northern Colorado, and Ph.D. from University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1966.

Early in his career, Welch taught English at Fort Morgan High School in Colorado, Gothenburg High School and at Hastings College.

Memorial services for Welch are pending.


Writer: Todd Gottula, Director of Communications, 308.865.8454,