Ivan Clark Doig (1939-2015) 

Ivan Clark Doig, at age 2 and a half.

Ivan, 2.5 Years Old. 

Ivan Clark Doig, a third-generation Montanan of Scottish descent, was born on June 27, 1939 in White Sulphur Springs, Montana and was the only child of Charlie Doig and Berneta Ringer Doig. After his mother passed away from asthma on Ivan’s sixth birthday, he was raised by his father and his grandmother, Bessie Ringer. Ivan’s father earned a living as a ranch foreman and sheep herder, consequently settling his family in Dupuyer, Montana near the Rocky Mountain Front, where many of Ivan’s books are set. He attended Valier High School in Valier, Montana and graduated in 1957 with a class of 21 students [2].   

In the fall of 1957, by means of a full scholarship, Ivan moved to Evanston, Illinois to attend Northwestern University where he earned a bachelor’s degree (1961) and a master’s degree in Journalism (1962). His master’s thesis was about televised congressional hearings on organized crime. Upon completion of his master’s, Doig penned editorials for the Lindsay-Schaub newspaper chain in Decatur, then served as assistant editor of The Rotarian magazine in Evanston. Ivan met his wife, Carol Muller, while they were students at the Medill School of Journalism [1]. They were married on April 17, 1965 [4]

Ivan and Carol Doig.

Ivan and Carol Doig.


After Ivan and Carol were wed, Carol worked at the Methodist Publishing House in Park Ridge, Illinois [1]. In 1966, the Doig’s left Illinois to return west, settling in Seattle, Washington. Carol took a job teaching journalism at Shoreline Community College while Ivan returned to school. In 1969, he received a Ph.D. in American History at the University of Washington for his dissertation on John J. McGilvra. Doig was also the recipient of three honorary doctorates from Montana State University, 1984; Lewis and Clark College, 1987; and Carroll College, 2009 [8].


Charlie Doing and Bessie Ringer leaning on a car.

Charlie Doig and Bessie Ringer, December 1967.

Ivan Doig began writing what would become his first critically acclaimed work, This House of Sky, in the early 1970s. While Doig drew upon childhood experiences to craft his memoir, he also conducted a series of interviews and spent countless hours researching. Published in 1978, This House of Sky was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the Christopher Award. Unfortunately neither Ivan’s father, who passed away in 1971 from emphysema, nor his grandmother, who suffered a heart attack three years later [1], would see the success of the memoir. This House of Sky, along with Doig’s other works, earned him a lifetime Distinguished Achievement Award from the Western Literature Association in 1989.


After the success of This House of Sky, Doig would go on to write a companion volume, Heart Earth (1993), and also Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America (1980), based on a pioneer's diary.  Then he turned to novels and wrote: The Sea Runners (1982), English Creek (1984), Dancing at the Rascal Fair (1987), Ride with Me, Mariah Montana (1990), Bucking the Sun (1996), Mountain Time (1999), Prairie Nocturne (2003), and The Whistling Season (2006), before receiving the coveted Wallace Stegner Award in 2007 which recognizes someone who has “made a sustained contribution to the cultural identity of the West.” 


Part of Ivan's Last Bus to Wisdom research files, Ivan is pictured in Manitowoc, Wisconsin at the age of 12 or 13.

Part of his Last Bus to Wisdom research files, Ivan is pictured in Manitowoc, Wisconsin at the age of 12 or 1\

In 2001, Ivan was diagnosed with MGUS (monoclonal gammopathy of unknown significance), a disease without active cancer cells but that contains two of the seven symptoms of multiple myeloma. In 2006, after years of routine blood screenings, it was discovered that Ivan had an elevated reading of lymphocytes, an early indicator of either multiple myeloma or lymphoma. In April 2006, Ivan was diagnosed with “smoldering” myeloma—a form of myeloma that can remain stable for years. However, in November of that year, Ivan’s spiking protein levels indicated that the myeloma was progressing [9]. Over the next several years until his death, Ivan wrote five novels while battling the disease: The Eleventh Man (2008), Work Song (2010), The Bartender's Tale (2012), Sweet Thunder (2013), and his final novel Last Bus to Wisdom (2015).


Ivan passed away peacefully in his sleep on April 9, 2015 at his home in Seattle, Washington. He is survived by his wife, Carol Doig. 

  1. Gorner, Peter. (December 10, 1987). “Montana Novelist Ivan Doig Is One Of A Number Of Regional Writers Yearning For Wider Pastures”. Chicago Tribune.
  2. Roberts, Sam. (April 10, 2015). "Ivan Doig, Author Who Lived the Western Life, Dies at 75". The New York Times.
  3. MSU News. (September 2, 2015). “Montana State University Acquires Papers of Renowned Author Ivan Doig”.
  4. Doig Family Society. (February 17, 2016). Descendants of Robert Doig.
  5. Northwestern Alumni Life. (Summer 2015). Passings.
  6. Associated Press. (April 12, 2015). “Ivan Doig, Author Who Drew on His Montana Childhood, Dies at 75”. Washington Post.
  7. The Authors Road. “Ivan Doig: Novelist, Memoirist, Journalist”. 
  8. Finding Aid. “Ivan Doig Papers, 1939-2015”.
  9. Ivan Doig Diaries. “Ivan Doig Papers, 1939-2015”.


Writings by Ivan Doig 
  • Doig, I. (1969). The Genial White House Host and Ranconteur. Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society, 62, 307-11.
  • Doig, I. (1970). Washington’s First Smoke Jumper. Seattle Times, Sunday, July 5,12-13.
  • Doig, I. and Doig, C. (1972). News: A Consumer's Guide. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. 
  • Doig, I. (1975). The Streets we Have Come Down. Textbook. New Jersey: Hayden.
  • Doig, I. (1976). Utopian America: Dreams and Realities. New Jersey: Hayden.
  • Doig, I. (1976). Early Forestry Research: A History of the Pacific Northwest Forest & Range Experiment Station, 1925-1975. Washington DC: U.S. Forest Service.
  • Doig, I. (1978). End of the Hunt. Seattle Times Magazine, Sunday, September 17.
  • Doig, I. (1978). This House of Sky: Landscapes of a Western Mind. New York: Harcourt & Brace Co.
  • Doig, I. (1980). Winter Brothers: A Season at the Edge of America. Harcourt & Brace Co.
  • Doig, I. (1982). The Sea Runners. New York: Atheneum.
  • Doig, I. and Kelso, D. (1983). Inside This House of Sky. New York: Atheneum. 
  • Doig, I. (1984). English Creek. New York: Atheneum. 
  • Doig, I. (1985). The Heaneys. Northwest Magazine, Jan 6, 10-11.
  • Doig, I. (1987). Dancing at the Rascal Fair. New York: Atheneum. 
  • Doig, I. (1990). Ride with Me, Mariah Montana. New York: Atheneum. 
  • Doig, I. (1993). Heart Earth: A MemoirNew York: Atheneum. 
  • Doig, I. (1996). Bucking the Sun. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Doig, I. (1999). Mountain Time. New York: Scribner.
  • Doig, I. (2003). Prairie Nocturne. New York: Scribner.
  • Doig, I. (2003). Edgewise in Nature. Building Tradition: Gifts in Honor of the Northwest Art Collection.
  • Doig, I. (2006). The Whistling Season. New York: Harcourt Brace and Company.
  • Doig, I. (2010). Work Song. Riverhead Publishing. 
  • Doig, I. (2011). The Bob and I, Under the Big Sky, Wilderness Society 2011-2012. Wilderness, 28-29.
  • Doig, I. (2012). The Bartender's Tale. Penguin Publishing Group.
  • Doig, I. (2013). Sweet Thunder. Riverhead Publishing. 
  • Doig, I. (2015). Last Bus to Wisdom. Riverhead Publishing. 
Writings on Ivan Doig
  • Staebler, G. (1976). Review. Journal of Forest History20 (4), 215.
  • Malone, M.P., (1979). Review. The Pacific Northwest Quarterly, 70 (4), 180.
  • Ahearn, K.D. (1983). Ivan Doig's Self-Narratives: The West, Wilderness, and the Prophetic Impulse. South Dakota Review, 20 (4), 7-22.
  • Simpson, E. (1992). Earthlight, Wordfire: The Work of Ivan Doig.

  • Meldrum, B.H. (1993). Creative Cowgirl: Mary Clearman Blew's Herstory. South Dakota Review, 31, Spring, 63-72. 
  • Egan, K. (2000). Montana Apocalypse: Extremism and Hope in the American West. Western Futures: Perspectives on the humanities at the millenium, 17-30
  • Karrell, L. (2002). Collaboration and Contradiction in the Western Memoir: Ivan Doig, Mary Clearman Blew, and William Kittredge. Writing Together, Writing Apart.
  • Sheffeld, D. (2006). Conversation with Middle-Class Cosmic Mechanic, Ivan Doig. Page to page : retrospectives of writers from the Seattle review, 229-252.