Resident Thespian Retires


Carlos Wyrick

David Mycoff performs in King Lear.

This year has been a strange one at Warren Wilson College, and a lot of changes are on the horizon. The horses retired, the work program is being updated, and several members of staff and faculty are leaving or retiring. One such member of the faculty is David Mycoff, Ph.D. who has taught at Warren Wilson for over 30 years.  

Many students and other faculty have fond memories and anecdotes involving Mycoff, whether from taking his classes, acting alongside him in various productions over the years or through their association with storied librarian Mei Mah, an alumnus who had returned to Warren Wilson after receiving her master’s degree from Purdue University. Mah and Mycoff met at Warren Wilson, after they both joined the faculty in 1986, and while they both lived in the same building.

“This tiny woman came down the steps of Randolph House,” Mycoff recalled about Mah. The pair were married a few years later.

Mycoff is known by many as a very passionate professor, having a deep appreciation and love for the subjects he teaches. Mycoff said that in his 35th year at Warren Wilson, and 44th year teaching, he would not have been so effective if the subjects weren’t his passion. 

“Something has to sustain you more than salary, though I don’t scorn that, ” Mycoff said. 

He got into stage acting around 20 years ago, having had a fascination but little participation in theater during undergrad or graduate schools. With the exception of the pandemic era, he has participated in five to six productions per year, though he says he never considered acting full-time. Mycoff’s acting resumé spans an impressive collection of theatre companies and positions therein, including the Montford Park Players, Different Strokes Performing Arts Collective, and Hendersonville Community Theatre, in addition to productions at Warren Wilson. 

“I’m too stagey an actor for film,” said Mycoff. “I want to do stuff that’s important.” 

Mycoff said the pandemic was not much of a factor in his decision to retire. He said he had been considering it for several months before, and during the pandemic he sometimes wished he had done it a year earlier. 

“The pandemic makes it hard to do your strongest work,” Mycoff said. 

He added that he dreaded the idea of retirement for several years, but having heard from associates who were living the retired life and enjoying it, the idea became more appealing.

Mycoff is well known and admired by his associates in the English and Theater Departments, as well as the multitudes of students he has taught and interacted with over the years. A lot of people had kind words and comments upon hearing about his retirement.

“He is a sincere, dedicated man of integrity,” wrote alumnus Jordan Earl ‘97. 

Alumnus David MacLean, who holds an MFA from New Mexico State University and a Ph.D. in literature/creative writing from the University of Houston, said that he loved Mycoff’s classes, in part due to Mycoff’s enthusiasm.

“Mycoff’s classes were as much about empathy as they were about intellect,” said MacLean, whose work has appeared in multiple renowned publications. “To understand the work, he taught me that you had to understand its contemporary audience and what their priorities were, how their brains were organized. These lessons have resonated with me throughout my academic work, as well as my own creative work. I don’t think I would have gotten a PhD in Literature if it wasn’t for Mycoff making such a choice look cool as hell.” 

Professor Candace Taylor, chair of the Theater Department, has worked with Mycoff over the years, with Mycoff having played a role in several college productions directed by Taylor. 

“I absolutely will miss working with him, though I’m not positive I won’t work with him again,” said Taylor.

Gary Hawkins, Ph.D., who is the director of Center for Faculty Innovation and Excellence and a professor of poetry at Warren Wilson, speaks highly of Mycoff, particularly his zeal for re-invention.

“Re-invention was always afoot in David’s creation of new courses, especially those featuring contemporary literature (often showcasing contemporary Irish literature),” wrote Hawkins. “Importantly, these courses and topics weren’t ways for David to show off his breadth of knowledge; rather, they were ways to meet students where they are—something he did throughout his career.” 

Retirement brings relief from the whims of the academic schedule and Mycoff said he plans to spend more time with family, and more time acting. He said that he also has thousands of books to read among other hobbies and travel as well. But what he will miss most about teaching, Mycoff said, is working directly with students.