Two Ohio Wesleyan Professors Earn Ohio Arts Council Recognition

Ohio Wesleyan professors Bonnie Milne Gardner (above) and David Caplan (below) have earned Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards. Gardner earned her award, her second, for playwriting. Caplan earned his award for criticism. (Photo by Snavely Associates)

Ohio Wesleyan professors Bonnie Milne Gardner (above) and David Caplan (below) have earned Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards. Gardner earned her award, her second, for playwriting. Caplan earned his award for criticism. (Photo by Snavely Associates)

David Caplan, Ph.D.

David Caplan, Ph.D.

DELAWARE, Ohio – Two Ohio Wesleyan University faculty members are among the Ohio Arts Council award winners and grant recipients announced April 15. Both David Caplan, Ph.D., professor of English, and Bonnie Milne Gardner, Ph.D., professor of Theatre & Dance, earned Individual Excellence Awards and $5,000 grants.

Caplan, who joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 2000 and also serves as associate director of creative writing, earned his award for criticism. Gardner, an OWU graduate who joined the faculty in 1985, earned her award for playwriting.

According to the Ohio Arts Council: “Individual Excellence Awards are peer recognition of creative artists for the exceptional merit of a body of their work that advances or exemplifies the discipline and the larger artistic community. These awards support artists’ growth and development and recognize their work in Ohio and beyond.”

Caplan earned his award for work related to his latest book, “Rhyme’s Challenge: Hip Hop, Poetry, and Contemporary Rhyming Culture,” published in February. In the book, he argues that hip-hop artists are the most daring, inventive, and sophisticated contemporary rhymers and examines three types of rhymes favored by the artists: doggerel, insult, and seduction.

“I hope readers will gain a better appreciation of the hip-hop artists’ verbal artistry,” he said when the book was released. “I came to write the book after many students asked me, ‘Is hip-hop poetry?’

At Ohio Wesleyan, Caplan specializes in 20th- and 21st-century American literature. He is a two-time Fulbright Scholar and winner of the Virginia Quarterly Review’s spring 2012 Emily Clark Balch Prize for Poetry.

Gardner earned her Individual Excellence Award for her play, “The Secret War of Emma Edmonds.” Based on a true story, the play explores the life of Edmonds, a woman who claimed to have spent two years serving as a male soldier in the Union Army. It premiered at Ohio Wesleyan in October.

“The resources I’ve had at OWU have been instrumental in the success of this script,” said Gardner, who also received and Ohio Arts Council award for her play “A Late Harvest” in 1993. “Having the ability to see a play through production is essential for a playwright. I am particularly grateful to the students, faculty, and staff here in Theatre & Dance, who were significant collaborators in the two-year development of ‘The Secret War of Emma Edmonds.’ ”

Gardner is a member of the Dramatists Guild and has had more than 20 scripts produced by professional, community, and educational theatres. At Ohio Wesleyan, she teaches playwriting, American drama, and theatre education.

“David Caplan and Bonnie Milne Gardner are most deserving of this recognition from their peers and the Ohio Arts Council for their exceptional scholarship,” said OWU President Rock Jones, Ph.D. “Ohio Wesleyan is fortunate to have both dedicated professors teaching, mentoring, and changing students’ lives on our campus.”

Founded in 1965, the Ohio Arts Council works to “foster and encourage the development of the arts and assist the preservation of Ohio’s cultural heritage.” Grant applications are reviewed by council staff and panels of arts experts. Final decisions are made by a vote of the council board, consisting of 15 gubernatorial appointees and four nonvoting members from the Ohio legislature. Read more about the Ohio Arts Council and its latest awards at

Read more about Caplan and the OWU Department of English at, and more about Gardner and the OWU Department of Theatre & Dance at

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private, coed university offers more than 90 undergraduate majors, minors, and concentrations, and competes in 23 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Ohio Wesleyan combines a challenging, internationally focused curriculum with off-campus learning and leadership opportunities to connect classroom theory with real-world practice. OWU’s 1,850 students represent 42 states and 37 countries. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll with Distinction, and included in the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “best colleges” lists. Learn more at

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