Friday, January 05, 2007

Dean McWilliams 1939-2006

In Memory of Dean McWilliams; 1939 - 2006

I attended Ohio University from 1995-2000 and took a class from Dean McWilliams. Through his encouragement and conversation, I submitted and presented my first conference paper. He was an example of what a scholar should be. This is very sad news. We've lost a very good man this week.

This is the statement from the Department of English Website:

It is with great sadness that we report the death of Professor Dean McWilliams on December 31. Dean McWilliams, the Hamilton-Baker Professor of the Humanities emeritus, was a vital member of the Ohio University English Department for thirty-seven years. He was the author of three books on a wide-range of 20th Century novelists: Michel Butor (Ohio University Press, 1978), John Gardner (G.K. Hall, 1990), and Charles Chesnutt (University of Georgia Press, 2003). He also edited two of Chesnutt’s novels published by the Princeton University Press in 1999. He served for five years as the chair of the department’s graduate program and was active in every major effort to reform the undergraduate or graduate curriculum during his years on the faculty.

Dean was also a distinguished teacher having been honored by his students with a University Professorship in 1981 and by his colleagues with the Janet Grasselli Outstanding Teaching Award from the College of Arts and Sciences in 1993. He was also twice a finalist for the Outstanding Graduate Teacher Award. He had a passionate commitment to liberal education and spent the last decade of his career teaching almost exclusively in the university’s General Education program where his freshman writing seminar devoted to The Brothers Karamazov and his senior-level Tier III course on The Existential Vision became legendary among Ohio University’s undergraduates. His love of teaching and liberal learning was recognized in his appointment in 1998 to the Charles J. Ping Institute for the Teaching of the Humanities where he has held the Hamilton-Baker Professorship in the Humanities since 2000.

Dean was a noted internationalist. He held visiting professorships at universities in Mexico, the Philippines, France, and Germany and lectured widely in Africa under the sponsorship of USAID. Perhaps his greatest gift to the department was the establishment of the professorial exchange program with the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail. For twenty years, on an almost annual basis, both departments and universities were enriched by a steady flow of professors between Athens and Toulouse, Toulouse and Athens. Dean made these exchanges work smoothly and his example encouraged others to seek international opportunities beyond the Toulouse connection through the Fulbright and other exchange programs.

Dean took genuine pride in the accomplishments of our younger faculty as the department remade itself in the 1990s as the wave of those hired in the 50s and 60s began to retire. He and his wife, Alvi, opened up their house up on Old Peach Ridge Road, with its wonderful western vistas and dramatic sunsets, to a variety of department parties and celebrations. It was a happy spot and we made good use of it and their hospitality. Dean was a noted scholar, a vibrant teacher, a world traveler, and a passionate colleague. He made a difference.

An Athens memorial service will be held Saturday, January 6, at 3 p.m., in Galbreath Memorial Chapel on the Ohio University campus. The family asks that, in lieu of flowers, contributions be made in his memory either to Appalachian Community Hospice, 30 Herrold Ave., Athens, OH 45701; or to The Athens Foundation, P.O. Box 366, Athens, OH.


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