Mary Vermillion Headshot

Communication, Literature & Arts

Mary Vermillion

Professor of English


  • PhD University of Iowa
  • MA University of Iowa
  • BA St. Mary College


Professor of English Mary Vermillion joined Mount Mercy in 1994.

Prior to coming to Mount Mercy, she served as a teaching assistant and academic advisor at the University of Iowa. Her doctoral dissertation examines the connection between last wills and 18th-century novels, and she remains interested in literary depictions of legal issues.

She teaches an honors course called Law and Literature, and she has long facilitated a service-learning project in which her students lead book clubs with inmates at the Anamosa State Penitentiary. She and her former colleague English Professor Emeritus Carol Tyx published an article about the project in an award-winning MLA anthology titled "Service Learning and Literary Studies."

Vermillion has published three mystery novels. She and her husband, Benjamin Thiel, recently completed a dual memoir about how his gender transition changed each of them and their marriage. Vermillion also started a blog called Midway that explores transitions and “middles.”

She has also published scholarly articles and shorter creative works. Her most recent creative work is "Mixed Bag", a lyric essay about environmental grief in the time of COVID.

She organizes Mount Mercy’s Visiting Writers Series, and she serves as the faculty advisor for its literary magazine, The Paha Review. She teaches Writing and Social Issues, Creative Writing, LGBTQ Literature, and a number of British literature courses—including her favorite, Shakespeare.

In spring 2010, Vermillion taught at one of Mount Mercy’s partner universities, Canterbury Christ Church University in England, and this experience led her and Associate Professor of English Christopher DeVault to offer a new travel course, British Literature and Culture.

They also offer a similar travel course in Ireland. Vermillion has accompanied Mount Mercy students on service trips to Kentucky and West Virginia, and in 2006, she was awarded the Mount Mercy Thomas Feld Chair for Excellence in Teaching.

Vermillion loves to read and write, garden, lift weights, and watch women’s basketball. She and her husband live in Iowa City with their cats and guinea pigs.