Amherst College mourns the passing of  Stanley J. Rabinowitz, the Henry Steele Commager Professor of Russian, Emeritus, in January 2024.

Provost and Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein wrote the following in a Jan. 23 email to faculty and staff:

No note of this kind, which by necessity must be brief, could do Stanley justice; renowned scholar, consummate teacher, and devoted colleague, he was a beloved member of the Amherst community for more than five decades.

Stanley joined the Amherst faculty in 1973, after earning an A.B. degree from Brooklyn College, cum laude, in Russian, and A.M. and Ph.D. degrees in Slavic languages and literature from Harvard.  He retired in 2018, but continued teaching at the college as his schedule permitted, and was set to teach a course this spring.  The author of numerous books and articles, his subjects ranged from the novels and other works of Nikolai Gogol and Fyodor Dostoevsky to the writings of theater and ballet critic Akim Volynsky.  An active member of the Amherst faculty and of the scholarly community, Stanley was elected to the Committee of Six three times, chaired the Committee on Educational Policy, and served on the Committee on Academic Priorities, among numerous other college committees.  He was the director emeritus of the Amherst College Center for Russian Culture at the time of his death, having been critical to the establishment of the center; he served as its director for many years.  In addition, over the course of his distinguished career, Stanley regularly delivered lectures and talks in this country and abroad.

Rick Griffiths, Class of 1880 Professor in Greek (Classics), a colleague, co-author, and close friend of Stanley’s, shared the following: “Generations heard Stanley bring to life titanic Russian masterworks, and at times he seemed to have walked out of one: great-souled, outrageous, funny, and endlessly kind.  Novels, opera, ballet, and every student’s name and major since 1973—he covered the waterfront.  He defined the possibilities of the Amherst classroom; luckily, he was inimitable.”  Andrew Nussbaum ’85, Stanley’s student and now chair of Amherst’s board of trustees, who maintained a close relationship with his teacher over the decades, described the impact of Stanley’s loss.  “With Stanley’s passing, a part of Amherst will be missing for me, as for so many thousands of alumni across generations who were fortunate to be one of his students, or even just to have their name, hometown, high school, and zip code recited aloud as they crossed paths with him on campus,” he noted.  “Stanley revered Amherst; Amherst loved him.  A friend, a pal, a scholar, a colleague, a treasure, with a brilliant mind, sharp wit and hearty laugh, an embracing smile, and the largest of hearts.  A blessing to be remembered.”  Reflecting on his own experience as an Amherst student and memories of Stanley, President Elliott commented, "For my classmates and for me, Stanley Rabinowitz embodied what we loved about the intellectual life of Amherst: generous, inviting, witty, and wickedly smart.  For me, his greatest legacy may be the joy that he brought to the classroom and to the campus.  His sheer sense of delight remains an inspiration."

A funeral service for Stanley will be held on Thursday, January 25, [in Johnson Chapel], at 10:00 a.m. This will be an occasion to come together to celebrate Stanley’s life.  Following the service, a graveside burial service will take place at the Wildwood Cemetery.  Stanley’s family asks that close friends and family only take part in the graveside service. The family invites colleagues to a shiva and community gathering in Stanley's honor, with light refreshments served, at the Inn on Boltwood, from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.  This will be an opportunity to share stories and memories, and to support each other during this difficult time.  In Stanley’s memory, the family humbly requests that donations be made to Amherst, the college that meant so much to him.

Like so many of you, I will miss Stanley, and I am proud to hold the professorship that has been associated with him for these many years.

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Video of Memorial Service for Stanley J. Rabinowitz


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