Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Claude Mark Hurlbert, D.A.

Second Advisor

David I. Hanauer, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.


New members of an academic discipline often look to leaders of the field to help them determine possible routes for achieving success in that field. Composition-rhetoric developed as a field partly through forging numerous connections to other disciplines, thus leaving the field particularly capacious and, therefore, including more possible routes for a scholar to find her own professional success within the field. In this study, I present profiles of five leaders in composition-rhetoric: Don McQuade, Anne Ruggles Gere, Lillian Bridwell-Bowles, Jacqueline Jones Royster, and Nell Ann Pickett. Following a selected review of each participant's literature, I present narrative accounts of personal interviews that I conducted at homes or home institutions. An exploration of these stories reveals that each participant was strongly influenced by their upbringing and made purposeful decisions about their careers; however, the way they responded to unexpected opportunities and difficulties is the clearest indicator of how they found success in ways that are important to them. For compositionists at all stages of their careers, an understanding of these leaders reveals that the “map” one might follow toward a desired personal and professional place in the field is determined less by a particular route than by an individual's ability to respond to the unexpected in fruitful ways.