In Memoriam: Dr. Bruce Stovel

I opened the Edmonton Journal this morning to read that my favorite professor, Dr. Bruce Stovel, passed away last week at 65 years young. From the Journal:

“Joseph Bruce Stovel was born in Montreal. His father became the chief executive of a major manufacturing company and the family moved frequently, even settling in New York for a time, an experience that undoubtedly expanded his world view and inspired his interest in culture generally. He married Nora Stovel, also a professor at the U of A, 42 years ago, and the couple moved to Edmonton in 1985 with their two children, Laura and Grant.

“It’s typical of Mr. Stovel’s modest character that few people outside academia knew he had gained his PhD in English, magna cum laude, at Harvard University in the early 1970s, or that he was awarded several of the highest honours for teaching at the U of A before his retirement last year. Following his specialty in 18th-century English literature and numerous published essays, Mr. Stovel became an authority of international stature on Jane Austen in particular, editing two volumes of essays on Austen, founding the Edmonton chapter of the Jane Austen Society and organizing an international conference on the novelist here in 2003.”

“He’ll be remembered for treating everyone as a respected individual, bringing a positive attitude to meeting new people and exhibiting a natural enthusiasm for art and life that he couldn’t help instilling in others.”

I had the pleasure of taking an English 343: The Age of Sensibility course with Dr. Stovel in 2003. Literature classes tend to blend together – an amalgamation of discourse and debate, readings and essays. With Dr. Stovel at the helm, the authors became real, animated off the page with obscure anecdotes that humanized their lives, their stories. He introduced me to Samuel Johnson and James Boswell, and even now, years later, I find myself drawn to those aged, eighteenth-century volumes of The Life of Johnson tucked away on the fifth floor of Rutherford Library. He had many kind things to say, and always provided gentle criticism when possible. I actually still have a copy of an e-mail he wrote to me, saved in my inbox as a reminder of his belief in my capabilities.

I plan on attending the musical tribute to be held at the Yardbird Suite (he was an avid fan of blues) on January 28 in his memory.

Dr. Stovel will be missed.

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