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John Hoppenthaler '85

Alumni Success Story

picture of John HoppenthalerFrom Custodian to Poetry Professor

John Hoppenthaler '85 is a published poet and Professor of English/Creative Writing at East Carolina University.

After high school, he made two false starts at universities before returning to Rockland. He worked as a night custodian at Clarkstown North HS and enrolled at RCC.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to be but I had always been best at English, so I took classes with Dan Masterson and John Allman, who are largely responsible for putting me on the right path. I learned what poetry really was, and this changed everything.”

After RCC, Hoppenthaler earned his bachelor's degree at SUNY Brockport and an MFA in Creative Writing from Virginia Commonwealth University. He was chosen as a personal assistant by Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison and spent nine years working with her.

Hoppenthaler has published three books of poetry, Lives of Water (2003), Anticipate the Coming Reservoir (2008) and Domestic Garden (2015), all with Carnegie Mellon University Press. He also co-edited This-World Company: Collected essays on the work of Jean Valentine (U of Michigan Press, 2012).

“I owe much of my success to RCC and to the great people who teach there. I believe in what a community college can mean for a person. I know what doors one can open. RCC did these things for me.”

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