Deceased June 14, 2020

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In Memory

Though Bob followed brother Ned ’52 to Amherst and to medical school, pre-med failed to stop his exploration of the richness of Amherst’s literary curriculum. Bob rowed for four years and briefly played soccer and wrestled. At the beginning of his third year in medical school, he realized literature was his abiding passion, and, moving to Cambridge that autumn, he quickly won acceptance to Harvard’s Ph.D. program in English. After meeting and marrying Priscilla Brown—with whom he would raise two fine boys—and completing his degree, he joined the faculty of the University of Illinois before moving to Pasadena, where he taught at USC, edited The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography and helped establish the Samuel Johnson Society of the West, remaining an important presence there until his death.

Bob loved books as much as he loved the literature they contained and started a rare book business while still teaching. From that, the transition into the literary appraisal work he did in later years proved easy. His success, particularly in appraising the manuscripts of prominent literary figures, depended on his expansive ability to appreciate the breadth of human experience recorded in published and unpublished texts. 

Several classmates, styling themselves “Fossils,” experienced the warmth of Bob’s receptiveness to others at an annual mini reunion luncheon he and Brownie hosted over the past decade at their Cape Cod summer home. Bob welcomed everyone and their partners with the same dignity he accorded himself, gracefully tempered by a sense of self-irony exemplified in his allusion in a recent alumni note to squirrels occupying the empty spaces in his brain created by the cancer that would soon take his life. Those close to him recognized this as reflecting his determination to remain Bob, as he does in our memories, until the very end.

Dick Buel ’55