Emeritus English Professor Dewey Alvin Ganzel Jr., 1927-2011
by Rebecca Ganzel Thompson
Feb. 1, 2011
Photo by Carol H. Ganzel
Dewey Alvin Ganzel Jr. in August 2008
Dewey Alvin Ganzel Jr., longtime English professor at Oberlin College, died January 31, 2011, at Kendal of Oberlin, of complications from Parkinson’s disease. He was 83.
Dewey Ganzel was born July 5, 1927, in Albion, Nebraska, the second child of Dewey Ganzel Sr. and Frances Gross Ganzel (later DeForest). From 1937 to 1940, the family lived in New York City, where his father, a school administrator, completed a doctoral degree at New York University. Dewey graduated from high school in 1944 in McCook, Nebraska. With the highest score on the state Board of Regents examination for that year, he spent a year at the University of Nebraska before enlisting in the U.S. Navy, where he was stationed in Hawaii. After his discharge as a Hospital Apprentice First U.S.N.R. in December 1946, he went back to Nebraska to finish his undergraduate degree, then taught high school English for three years (1949 to 1952) in Nebraska City. As a Fulbright scholar, he taught English at Government College in Lahore, Pakistan, from 1952 to 1953, traveling around the world on his way back.
From 1953 to 1958, he was at the University of Chicago, earning a PhD in English literature (his dissertation was on the dramas of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a 19th-century English writer best known for the line, “It was a dark and stormy night”) and meeting Carol Henderson, who was earning a master’s degree there. He and Carol were married in 1955. Dewey taught at Oberlin College from 1958 until his retirement as Professor of English in 1997. At Oberlin, as he once wrote in a letter to a friend, he taught “mostly Twain, Hemingway, Henry James, Fitzgerald, Nabokov—all great writers and all a delight to teach.” He published two books, Mark Twain Abroad (University of Chicago Press, 1968), and Fortune and Men’s Eyes (Oxford, 1982).
Dewey and Carol raised three daughters in Oberlin; a son, David Henderson Ganzel, died at age two months in 1958. They traveled a great deal abroad and lived in London several times: Dewey had a second Fulbright, this one in London, in 1955–56, and they lived there in 1964–65 and 1978–79. Dewey served on the Oberlin City Council for eight years, including a stint as chair in 1976. They sold their house on Elm Street and moved to Kendal at Oberlin in 2006.
Dewey is survived by his wife, Carol; his daughters, Rebecca Ganzel Thompson of St. Paul, Minnesota (married to Michael Thompson), Catherine Sarah Lott of St. Louis, Missouri, (married to Douglas Lott), and Emily Frances Ganzel of Minneapolis, Minnesota; three grandchildren, Caroline Maria Thompson, Jason Nathanael Lott, and Jennifer Carole Lott; two nephews, James Franklin Harding and Jonathan Francis Harding; and many cousins and loving friends.
Dewey’s memorial service takes place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, February 5, in Heiser Auditorium at Kendal, 600 Kendal Dr., Oberlin. His burial in Westwood Cemetery will be private. His family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions be made to Oberlin College.