When Joseph O’Mealy was a grad student in the 70s, he got by on a scholarship paying $200 per month. “It was enough to live on and not much more,” he says. “My third year, I received $350 per month from a different scholarship, and it was enough to go to England for my dissertation research on Charles Dickens. It was a transformative experience that gave me the confidence and skill to press ahead successfully with my dissertation.”
Through decades as a professor of English at UH Mānoa and eight years as interim dean of the College of Languages, Linguistics, and Literature – predecessor of today’s College of Arts, Languages, and Letters – he says he saw a need to help doctoral students in the college.
Joe and his husband Anderson O’Mealy, with encouragement from Dickens O’Mealy, their beloved Portuguese Water Dog, established the O’Mealy Family Graduate Student Fellowship in Literature to assist students working toward PhDs, with preference for students in their dissertation phase. “They often need just a little bit of help to finish a year sooner or to finish at all,” says Joe. Fellowships will be used for research, travel, tuition, books and other expenses associated with attaining a PhD. It is UH Mānoa’s first fellowship open to doctoral students studying literature without restrictions on specific languages.
Peter Arnade, dean of the College of Arts, Languages & Letters, says, “Joe OʻMealy dedicated his career at the University of Hawaiʻi to teaching, scholarship and service. His gift will help graduate students in the field of literature with crucial support as they undertake their graduate work. I am grateful for his generosity, thoughtfulness and outstanding lifework at UH in the humanities.”
“The university has been very good to me.”
“I kind of initiated this process maybe a year ago,” says Anderson. “The university has treated us so well, with Joe’s salary and pension, and even before we were allowed legally to be married, I had health insurance and all kinds of domestic partner benefits.”
Joe says, “The students I taught and the people I met in 35 years at UH Mānoa were high quality, and I wanted to support the college when I’m gone. Anderson reminded me that the university has been very good to me. To both of us.”
Joe was Acting Associate Dean and Interim Associate Dean before returning to the English Department as a full-time professor in 2011. He retired in 2013 and is now a Professor Emeritus.
Anderson worked as a graphic artist in Los Angeles before moving to Waikīkī in 1991. He continued his design career and began a new one as a licensed massage therapist before publishing Da Kine magazine for ten years. While Joe taught classes for the UH Study Abroad Program in Florence, Italy, Anderson took a class in classical oil painting. He now exhibits his paintings with the Association of Hawaiʻi Artists at various venues in Honolulu.
Dickens was born in Kailua and raised in Waikīkī. Some of his closest friends know him as “the Mayor of Waikīkī.” He sired nine Portuguese Water Dog puppies last year.
Advice for the heavy lifting
“The best advice we can offer to those applying for this fellowship is perseverance,” says Joe. “The road to a completed dissertation and the awarding of a PhD degree is often long and uncertain. This fellowship is intended to be a small help along the way, but the heavy lifting will be mostly yours. Nonetheless, we hope that you will regard this fellowship as a vote of confidence in your abilities and talents and in the worthiness of your efforts. Persevere!”