We remember Bob Lucid

The people of the Kelly Writers House acutely mourn Bob's passing (December 2006). With this page we hope to enable others and us to remember him and his start-to-finish support of the idea of a Writers House.


On October 19, 2007, Bob's friends, former students and fellow members of the Writers House community gathered at 3805 Locust to celebrate his life and work. This event was recorded and we are pleased to make these recordings available here as downloadable mp3 files. Here first is a recording of the entire event. At 1:41:42 in length, it is a very large file.

  1. Susan Small Savitsky speaks (8:31)
  2. Kim Morrison speaks (9:50)
  3. Al Filreis speaks (9:50)
  4. Elaine Maimon speaks (9:27)
  5. Ivar Berg speaks (20:39)
  6. Ed Kane speaks (4:53)
  7. Peter Conn speaks (8:46)
  8. A recording of Bob Lucid (5:40)

Recordings of Bob

Here, next, are links to several recordings of Bob speaking at the Writers House on various occasions (click on the main link to download a free MP3; click on the sideways triangle for streaming audio):

  1. Bob speaks at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Kelly Writers House, 2006 (5:12) (more info)
  2. Bob hosts and introduces Norman Mailer at the Writers House, 2004 (5:02) (more info)
  3. Bob eulogizes David DeLaura with a story about David and a reading from Robert Browning's "The Bishop Orders his Tomb at Saint Praxed's Church", 2005 (8:51) (more info)
  4. Bob introduces event marking "Professor of the Year" award given to Al Filreis, 1998 (2:54) (more info)
  5. Bob discusses the formation of the Writers House in 1995, 2004


We are grateful to Sam Hughes of the Pennsylvania Gazette for making available a copy of an October 1996 profile of Bob called "Lucid Observations." It is a large PDF file.

"I always found Bob to be graceful and gentle. I remember him hosting Ginsberg and Creeley at Penn 10 years ago and showing his pleasure at just having them talk about getting into various sorts of trouble. Creeley spoke about how he liked sitting in open air toilets, Ginsberg sang the communist anthem, and Bob just made it all come together. He then held the stage with Norman Mailer and had just as much fun getting into trouble there. I would pass him by on occasion and just enjoy the short moments in common. He was complete kindness." —Josh Schuster

"I only met Bob a few times. One of those times was at the 10th Anniversary celebration in May, when he gave that speech, then walked out the front door of the Writers House to a truly thunderous standing ovation. No one knew where he was going, but by the time the applause ended, he was gone. I was in awe."—Jamie-Lee Josselyn

"It was Dr. Robert Lucid, emeritus professor of English, who came up with the idea of a Writers House. 'What was great about this concept and about this project was exactly the fact that, in a sense, everybody could "live" here,' he observes on a CD that was put out for the 10th anniversary. 'That's somewhat of an ecclesiastical idea. You have the church, which is the house, and everybody lives there when they're not back in their own place.' According to Lucid, Writers House has become something of a 'cooperative collective,' in the spirit of the academic experiments of the 1960s."--from Susan Frith's article "The House that Writers Built," July 2006.

"In the fall of 1995 I noticed that Penn's chaplain, Stanley Johnson had retired and moved out of this house. He had lived and quietly raised his family here for perhaps 30 years so that by 1995 few knew the University was maintaining a chaplain's house. He was a very active and excellent officer, but the fact of the house was, I think, not widely known. I went right over to College Hall and checked to make sure that the house hadn't been assigned to another chaplain or department, because real estate at that time had started to become a serious conversation around here. I checked with some people about the notion of a Writers House. The new president and provost, Dr. Judith Rodin and Dr. Stanley Chodorow, thought it was a good idea. In the English department, Greg Djanikian thought it was a good idea, Bob Perelman thought was a good idea, Peter Conn thought it was a good idea - but first of all we had to get the house. Linda Koons, in the provost's office, gave me the keys. She said, 'Now if this doesn't work, and work well, by the end of the year, you are bringing these back and we are forgetting the whole thing.'"--from Bob's remarks at the 10th Anniversary celebration of the Writers House, May 2006.

"I was Bob Lucid's successor as Faculty Master at Hill. He'd been there 17 years and even when he left, his spirit stayed. He had shaped a community and a spirit that were a privilege to inherit, even as I also inherited some of his paintings, some of his bookcases, and a gigantic set of library steps for reaching high shelves. But when I tried to fill his shoes -- well, he wasn't the biggest guy you ever met, but I swear those shoes were size 29EEE. He was a giant."—Jim O'Donnell (former Penn faculty, now Provost, Georgetown University)

"I'm sorry to hear about Bob Lucid's passing. I heard him lecture when I was a student at PENN back in the early 1980's. My vivid memory of him was walking down the street with his buddy, Norman Mailer. Norman came to visit his classes and be interviewed before the student s. After it was over, Norman and Bob were laughing as they headed toward Locust Walk in the rain. Both the best of friends as they disappeared into the night."—Marc Lapadula

"I am truly saddened to hear this news. I have extremely fond memories of Professor Lucid and I was fortunate enough to take one class with him in my junior year. I cannot recall the exact title but it was on Pop Culture and Literature, and I remember walking into the room and being surprised that the course was going to be taught by a somewhat older gentleman. Don't judge a book by its cover because Professor Lucid was more up on pop culture than anyone. In true pre-Writers House style, every week he brought a different author to speak to the class about their work and their lives as writers. We got to hear the likes of Stephen King, Joe McGuinness, and Mary Higgins Clark. Professor Lucid always showed a quiet wit and a kind demeanor and never failed to give a friendly smile and hello when I saw him on campus. It was an honor to know him."—Elana Weinstein

"My favorite memory of Bob Lucid is from when he led the summer in London program in 1985 that I attended. He turned up one morning for class, seemingly drunk, and announced, 'What the world really needs is a good breakfast wine!'"—Ilona Koren-Deutsch

"I'm deeply sad to hear that we've lost Bob Lucid, whom I met the day I arrived at Penn as a student and who forever altered my relationship to literature. But what a joy to have known him, and to have so many memories of him to carry forward. I last saw Bob at the 10th anniversary of Kelly Writers House, and I got to ask him a question that had been nagging me for 25 years, about one of his lectures on Hemingway. "Hemingway asks you, in that boozy voice of his, 'So what are you going to do? Are you going to get in the plane and strap yourself in and let it take you where it's going? Or are you going to get in the plane and strap it to you and take it where you want it to go?' " I'd never known whether Bob was really quoting Hemingway or whether this was Bob talking but I'd thought of that lecture so many times over the years, and in so many situations. And when I finally asked him about it he said, 'You know, I didn't remember using that until you just told me, but I can tell you exactly where it comes from: It comes from our RAF pilot training.' And another dimension of Bob Lucid revealed itself. Penn benefited from Bob's teaching, devotion, energy, and wit more than 10 years after he'd claimed to retire. What a joy that so much of him will live on in Writers House. I will miss him terribly, but I believe we'll always find him there."—Robert Shepard

"I took Bob's course on Hemingway back in 1972 or '73, when he wore a great mane of white hair and a white beard. As you might imagine, it consisted of Bob lecturing, brilliantly, to a great mob three hours a week. The course constituted part of Bob's ongoing investigation of the American writer as public figure and began with Hemingway's creative reinterpretation of his beginnings in his last completed book, A MOVEABLE FEAST, in which he treated his living contemporaries kindly and the dead ones with a combination of smiling condescension and brutality. At the last class, a student asked if any major contemporary novelists were likely to loom as large in the public imagination, say, Updike. 'Updike!' Bob roared. 'For Christ's sake, UPDIKE?! MAILER!'"—Jay Rogoff

"His grad lecture course on modern American novels (spring, 1969) has remained very much alive in my own memory. He was a brilliant lecturer. I believe I still have my notes from his course -- probably the only lecture notes I've kept. I was very shy, never worked up the nerve to talk to him, but that course and a course from Daniel Hoffman, who later became my mentor and friend, were the highpoints of my grad school career."—Marilyn Nelson

"He was, for me, the most passionate of the scholars who pushed me to look beyond the easy and simple reading of literature. With cigarette ash always long on the cigarette and cascading down the front of his shirt, he thought more about the fire of words than that ash. I thought he was wonderful and stimulating and brilliant -- he was everything I loved about learning at Penn."—Elsie Sterling Howard

"Bob Lucid was a towering presence when I was an English major at Penn back in the 70s. After every one of his brilliant and shapely lectures, students clustered around him, as if unwilling to let go of the almost magical clarity, order and insight Dr. Lucid had given us, while beyond the confines of the classroom, the Vietnam war was raging , the Cold War was chilling, and confusion of all kinds was rampant. Bob Lucid gave his students the intoxicating gift of directly experiencing the wisdom and the danger inherent in great literature. He was a wonderful teacher who made a difference.... He embodied so much of what I loved about being an undergraduate at Penn."—Carol (Morgenstern) Kaufman CW '71

"I am sorry to hear about Bob's death. He did so much and his interest and role in the Writers House alone, is such a legacy."—Jon Avnet

"Every time I come back to campus (lately, just once a year) I tell my wife about Prof Lucid. I took his 'Paris in the 20's' course, one of my favorites at Penn, and pure manna for a budding writer (even if I never could enjoy Gertrude Stein, and somehow did my final paper on Cole Porter, leading to a lifetime of love and appreciation of Porter I probably never would have had -- see "wife," above). Above all, he was such a smart, sweet, fun guy, and I enjoyed staying in touch with him after college, but hadn't spoken with him in years (despite meaning to get in touch). He had a great run, and I was lucky to learn from him and know him."—Larry Smith

"I took my first class with Dr. Lucid in 1967. He had short gray hair, wore a blue shirt and tweed jacket, held a lit Galois in his hand, and uttered one profound insight after another, non-stop. After that (and I couldn't believe the appropriateness of his name) I took as many classes with him as I could. My favorite line of his was something like, 'Art is an attempt to turn a howl into a song.' I was too shy to talk to him while I was at Penn, but when I read about him and the Writer's House online a few years ago, I emailed him to tell him what a fan of his I had always been, and to remind him of that comment. He wrote back the same day, as cordial and happy to hear from me as if I were an old friend."—Lisbeth Davidow

"He was my favorite professor at Penn and I feel so lucky to have known him and to have been inspired by him. I am also glad that we had reconnected the past couple of years."—Susan Small Savitsky, CW'75

"I took a class with Bob on popular fiction and it was one of the most memorable of my academic career, not least for Bob's own gentle yet definitive presence. Subtly but very cleanly, he managed to convi nce me that Stephen King's Misery is actually a rich literary experience rif e with complex postmodern authorial tension and metanarrativity. I think of that class, and of him, every time I enter a bookstore and face the 'Bestseller' wall."—Brad Rickman

"We met Bob and Joanne when Steve and I were both new students at Penn, living in Hill. Steve and Bob really hit it off, and stayed very close over the years, even though they spoke entirely different languages (Steve, the language of numbers, and Bob, the language of...well...language). When we came back to Hill as administrators in the 90's, Joanne was fighting cancer with unmatched grace. Bob, so confident in all other realms, was unabashedly vulnerable in the face of Joanne's illness. Joanne once said it was a very good thing men didn't attend births when "Jackie" was born; Bob never would have survived the experience! In fact, he was a strong man, except when it came to his love for others, which rendered him a complete mush. Joanne used to laugh and marvel at what an absolute "kid magnet" Bob was. They flocked to him! Our own children have loved him all their lives. Like other children, they innately sensed what those of us who loved Bob inevitably came to know -- that he was larger than life, and kinder than kind. We have lost one of our angels on earth. But I like to think that Bob's beloved Joanne has found what we so suddenly have lost."—Tracy Feld

"In 1971 I made the rather startling discovery that Dr. Lucid, the exhilarating lecturer on Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald, the man who regaled crowds of us afternoons as we sought respite from the excesses of the Nixon administrat ion, was actually quite accessible during office hours. One day I climbed to his aerie, hoping to entice him into revealing more juicy insights into what "real" writers' lives were like, since he knew so many of them personally. "Schaffer!" he barked at me as I popped my head in the door. "Do you have something of substance on your mind, or are you just here for literary gossip?" As I hastily mumbled my excuses and denials he reached behind him to a tall stack of brand new reviewer's copies and selected one for me. "Here, I think you'll like this-----I'm busy today---go." The gift of a free hardcover novel, pre-endorsed by one's literary mentor, was not a small thing in those days. Bob Lucid inspired my belief that the field of literature was important enough and broad and deep enough to contain and reflect all other disciplines available to us at our great university, indeed all other aspects of our lives. I was grateful to him then and I remain so, 35 years later."—Jim Schaffer C '73

"Through his many years living and working in a residential college and as a department chairman, Bob Lucid developed an idea about teaching and learning that he often expressed through the trope of "the loft space." Students, he told anyone within earshot, will learn best in a space that is both theoretically and physically formed like an ample artist's studio -- smart, interesting people coming and going; no time limit or set evaluative criteria defining the experience; the productive although sometimes infuriating combination of lonely work and communal craziness. By 1995, the idea in him was so well articulated that when he spied an empty 14-room Tudor-style cottage in the middle of Penn's campus, he seized it utterly, sought partners--I was lucky enough to be one of them--and induced "the thing," as he called it, to come into being, somehow pushing aside all doubts and political barriers. Faculty, students, staff, writerly Philadelphians and Penn alumni gathered in the new-found space to fit out and furnish what was, after all, just one of several instances of Bob Lucid's plans for inventing alternative modes of higher-education learning. This one became the Kelly Writers House and through its first decade Bob Lucid was a quiet mainstay, wise godfatherly guide, and communicant. No one involved with this unusual project will ever forget Bob's generous vision."—Al Filreis, Faculty Director of the Kelly Writers House

"I am sorry to hear of Dr. Bob's passing I lived in Hill house for two years with him as the Faculty Master, and he was living there when I managed the installation of the ResNet cabling. I have many good memories of him and his wife, Joanne, and the one I would like to share is this. While attending a sit down dinner in the private dining room off of Hill House dining, we were discussing the social history of Hill College House, and the changing role of alcohol. Dr. Lucid stated that now the students sneak drinks in their rooms and he sips wine in his apartment, but he missed the old days when he was able raise a glass with the students at the same tables we were eating. He felt that something important had been lost in the area of social faculty and student interaction. In a way, perhaps, Dr. Lucid was looking to regain some of that old interaction at the Writers House, and if that was one of his small goals, I believe that it was achieved."—Matt Bixler, SEAS & SAS '02

"I am very sad to hear of the passing of Dr. Robert Lucid. Bob was both chairman of the English department and my advisor at Penn during my undergraduate years 1972 - 1976. That was a unique time in America, particularly for many of the young who grew up "not trusting anyone over 30." The War in Vietnam, Affirmative Action, Women's Liberation, and a Culture of Drugs made for a turbulent time. Add to that mix the adolescent's normal search to find themselves and understand their world and you can only begin to imagine what a heady brew it was for college students then. In the middle of all that I encounter Bob Lucid in Bennett Hall in September of 1972 teaching "Introduction To 20th Century American Novelists" and by the end of my first semester I learned that you can trust those over thirty. The War In Vietnam and Hemingway's Farewell To Arms, Affirmative Action and Ellison's Invisible Man, a drug culture and Fitzgerald's The Crack Up was only the beginning of an incredible four year tour led by Bob. Cosmic consciousness and tripping, two terms coined during those heady years, were passÈ when Dr. Lucid took us on a journey through T.S. Eliot's The Four Quartets.

I imagine that most student's recollections of Robert Lucid will be of his brilliant lectures many of which were capped by a rousing standing ovation at the end of the semester. Others will recall his involvement with student life at Penn and Hill House. However, for me those achievements, while admirable, were not what distinguished Bob. Rather, Bob Lucid was most notable for his humanity. I have never met a more gentle, decent, human being in my life. More than any grade of "A" I received during my college years, I treasure most the comment Dr. Lucid wrote on one of my class papers, "There is a noble quality to your voice." Noble, not nobility, was what Robert Lucid was all about.

I had the opportunity to spend one afternoon with Dr. Lucid about a year ago reminiscing about the "good ol' days." I told Bob that one of the most remarkable developments in English was the comeback of poetry through rap music. Without missing a beat Bob discussed how hip-hop was the language of the alienated and in so doing had returned poetry to its original source. Here was this old, half blind professor teaching once again, like that ancient Greek spinning his tale of The Iliad and The Odyssey, only about a resurgence of poetry raging around us today in the West Philadelphia neighborhoods. Move over Homer, surely you can make room for Bob."—David Ganz C'76

"In my second year in Hill House as the AF/SAF/AD (pick a title, any title), we had a couple of bad actors in the first-year class -- we all know the type and all pray for a year without them in residence. This particular pair had already worked their way through the attempts at peer influence (totally ignored), the Graduate Fellow "discipline" (totally ignored), the AF/SAF/AD "punishment" (totally ignored) and were finally summoned to meet with the Faculty Master (no, they were not trembling in their boots -- fools that they were). The two gentlemen in question were invited to join Dr. Bob for tea in the faculty master apartment (I was invited too, partly because I was supposed to be part of the disciplinary process and partly so I could learn at the knee of the master). They approached this encounter as they had all other efforts to influence their behavior -- without a care in the world. Clearly, the boys thought that this old white-haired fellow was going to try to sweet talk them into behaving and they were ready to ignore him as they had everyone else. Bob had a very nice chat with them about school, life, the future and then, with a skill rarely seen in or out of academia, he worked the conversation around to their behavior and had them nodding their heads in agreement that it would have to stop and that no good could possibly come of their continued recalcitrance (I wanted to smack the silly looks off their faces -- they clearly thought they were putting one over on the old man). However, just when they thought they were home free, Bob leaned in a little (drawing them closer as if they were co-conspirators against the fun-hating establishment), and said to them (in a voice similar to what Moses heard from the burning bush) "... and if you ever FUCK with anyone in my house again, I'll have your balls in a vice quicker than you can spit." He then sat back, took a sip of tea, and calmly asked them if he had been sufficiently clear. They once again nodded (minus the silly smirks), and retreated from "The Master's" apartment as quickly as their trembling legs could carry them.

Bob always did have a masterful way with words, profane and otherwise. I really miss him."—Steve Feld

"Bob Lucid was one of my idols, a man living the professorial life as I had imagined it when I chose English as my major. I got to know Bob and Joanne Lucid in 1993, when Bob was the faculty director of the Penn In London Program. I was one of two Penn graduate students serving as liaisons to the Penn undergraduates enrolled for the year at King's College, University of London. Bob and Joanne rented a ground floor flat in Tavistock Square, around the corner from the British Museum; they hosted Sunday dinners for the Penn students, throwing open their home and their arms to bring students (who lived throughout that metropolis) into their salon. The Lucids knew that a great gift to young (and old) scholars was providing the time and space for the sociable sharing of experiences whether intellectual and new or gossipy and glib. The purpose, beyond reestablishing our bonds as Penn students, was to get us talking to each other and to have the kinds of conversations-and great fun-that we might have imagined "adults" enjoy. Bob nominated me to be a Graduate Fellow at Hill House-another example of his generosity-when I returned to Philadelphia after that year in London, and I saw again how deeply he enjoyed the company of students and his role as mentor. (Steven and Tracy Feld, among others on this web page, have more to say about Bob's role as Faculty Master.)

The image I will keep in my heart when I think of Bob is represented in the photo of him with Richard Wilbur and Norman Mailer: Bob's glasses halfway down his nose, head slightly lowered, two fists emphasizing the story he's telling. I don't know if Bob had ever been a boxer, but he met all challenges-righteous or heartbreaking, exciting or unremarkable-with wit, good humor, and energy. The comments on this page show how profoundly Bob affected his friends, colleagues, and students; I hope all of us who knew him will be as generous to others with our gifts as Bob was to us with his."—Frederick De Naples, Penn English PhD 1995

"I...knew Bob well from Penn-in-London in 1992-93. During a year that turned out to be quite fraught personally, Bob was always a supportive and fatherly presence. He never made judgements but instead helped me to accept the consequences of my choices. I was never lucky enough to work with him as a student but he was, for much of that year, a mentor and a friend. He was a uniquely generous and encouraging man."—Jackie Labbe, Penn PhD, 1994

"As so many others, I too am deeply saddened by Bob Lucid's death. Maybe it was the first semester of my junior year, fall of 1971, maybe the previous semester. I signed up for Bob's class on the modern novel. As was pretty common for me in those days, absorbed as I was in other worlds, I didn't attend many of the lectures. And when I did show up, I never hung around after class to glean extra wisdom, hear literary scuttlebutt, or try to earn his approval. I did show up for the first test, however, a test I assumed would require me to compare and contrast deep questions embedded in some novels I hadn't gotten around to reading (yet). (Well, maybe I never did read 'em.) But, lo and behold, the test consisted of one question in three words -- something like 'what is theory,' or some equally outrageous, nebulous, kick-in-the-butt question. Well, for a guy who hadn't done any of the reading, and was probably stoned out of his mind, to boot, I had hit the jackpot. I rambled on for a million miles (or was it a couple of inches?) about nothing. Weeks passed and I kept forgetting to go to his office to pick up the test. Then test two came along, another 3-word question about more unread novels, inspiring another ramble about the 4th dimension, or something. The next week I finally got it together to pick up the 2 tests. On the first one he gave me an 'A' and wrote, 'Alright! But if you do it again, I'll flunk you.' I don't remember what he wrote on the 2nd test, other than a big 'F.' It was a very wild time, and Bob Lucid was right there in the middle of it, stirring it up."—Steve Berer, College '72

"I am so sorry and sad -- I think the last time I saw him was at the 10th Anniversary celebration. I just remember congratulating him on his regularity at the Pottruck Center, as I was always seeing him there lifting weights. I told him, 'Mens sana in corpore sano, eh Bob?' and his response was to grab my arm (with a strong grip!!) and give me a big wink. I never knew him well as an undergrad, so I'm glad that my stint as Writers House director gave me the opportunity to experience his care, enthusiasm, and dry wit. He'll be much missed."—Jennifer Snead C'94, former Director of the Writers House

"I recall Bob most vividly as an astute politician, highly sensitized to the machinations of university administrators and a skilled competitor for the notoriously small rewards offered in academic institutions. He taught me how to compete for resources: space, money, personnel and how to make the most of whatever we managed to scrounge up. We started WATU when his vision for an NEH-funded Humanities Across the Curriculum program failed to materialize. He offered me $40,000 from then-provost Tom Ehrlich, a pathetically small salary, and told me if I could make writing across the curriculum work, I could have it. That was the start of a career I never envisioned or sought, but Bob had a way of helping you see a path through the brush you never knew existed until he showed it to you. I will miss his vitality and his imagination greatly."—Peshe Kuriloff, long-time director of Penn's Writing Across the University Program

"As an undergraduate, I remember being mesmerized by Bob's lecture on Mailer's An American Dream. My classmates and I agreed that the lecture was better than the book. Bob's encouragement led to my continuing at Penn in the English Ph.D. program and writing a dissertation on Scott Fitzgerald as an exemplar of the wound and the bow. As I moved through academic and administrative ranks, Bob was my mentor, adviser, and life-long friend. When he became Chair of the Penn English Department in 1980, he invited me to work with him on writing across the curriculum at my Alma Mater. What a thrill and honor! Together we developed the concepts and design for the WATU (writing across the university) program, which Peshe Kuriloff administered so successfully. When my career took me to Arizona and Alaska, I managed to get back to Philadelphia from time to time for lunches with Bob at La Terrasse. His advice was always right on the mark. When I regaled him with tales of perfidy and injustice, he advised directing energy toward action and change. As Gerald and Sara Murphy said, 'living well is the best revenge.' And as Bob knew, a university community is the best place to live well. It is a special privilege to build that community, as Bob has done with the Kelly Writers House.

He was particularly excited about Alaska. Growing up in Washington State, he always saw the 49th state as a place for adventure, particularly of the imagination.

In Northrop Frye's term, Bob truly educated my imagination. Bob's spirit continues to educate me every day."—Elaine Maimon, alumna, University of Alaska

"I first met Bob in the summer of 1979, when he'd just been appointed Master of Hill House and I'd just been appointed (by his predecessor) as SAF. We didn't know each other, but we were both enthusiastic about the possibilities and spend some lovely summer evenings making lists of things we wanted to do, drinking wine, and forging a friendship that lasted til Bob died. We both moved into Hill House that summer (he accompanied by the wonderful Joanne); a year later I married my wife Pat and she moved in too. Two years after that, our first son (Burt) was born; and then three years later our second son (Alec). Bob and Joanne were surrogate grandparents to both boys. My favorite memory of Bob is the day that we brought Burt home from "Clover Day" at Strawbridge & Clothier, where he'd been given a helium balloon. We told him to tie the string around his wrist but he adamantly refused (he was two) and predictably, as we arrived back at Hill House the string escaped his clutches and the balloon went heavenwards. Burt was in tears, his parents were frustrated and unsympathetic. Bob and Joanne watched this little scene of domestic bliss from their apartment window. An hour later there was a knock on our door and there stood Bob with a replacement balloon from Strawbridge & Clothier.

Eventually I left the SAF position to become College House Coordinator - a position Bob cooked up in collusion with then-VPUL Janis Somerville. Pat became SAF. Together, Pat, Bob, Joanne, and I continued to connive at moving Penn to an all-College House system. It didn't happen on my watch (we left Penn in 1988 to go to Colby College in Maine), but it did happen eventually - and Bob was the true godfather of this development. I remember how brilliant Bob was at sizing up political situations and designing workable solutions. Sometimes before going into an important meeting he would doodle something on a yellow pad - a flow chart for how the conversation would go. Often he would solve problems by articulating a particularly effective metaphor. Then he would translate the metaphorical solution to the metaphorical problem back into the analogus situation. Problem-solving English Professor-style. We developed the Pappas Fellow program together and brought Mailer to campus as the first Fellow - it was a weeklong festival of seminars, lectures, and one ebulliently weird 10-course luncheon in the University Museum's Lower Egyptian Gallery (Mailer had just published "Ancient Evenings") catered by "The Pyramids" (a hole-in-the-wall Middle Eastern restaurant in Center City) that dragged on well past the allotted time. Subsequent years brought Robert McNamara, Ed Bradley, and Beverly Sills among others to the College House system as Pappas Fellows. Bob's involvement with the PEN at Penn program trooped some of the greatest names in contemporary American literature through Hill House as well. One evening Pat and I found ourselves providing Arthur Miller with a drink in our Hill House apartment while he waited for Bob to finish teaching a class and pick him up.

Bob was a great friend and mentor even after we left Penn. On the day in 2003 when I returned to Pennsylvania to be officially named President of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, I celebrated the occasion by taking Bob out to dinner.

Pat and I, and our sons, will never forget Bob and Joanne. They were part of what made Penn such a special place for a span of decades."—Randy Helm

i got to spend time with bob when i tutored him for a year on the computer. we spent most of the time talking about life and norman mailer and it was one of the best experiences i had at school.

even six months later
bobs presence looms large
even six years after we last spoke
his words are like the lyrics to
a favorite song
he was old
and that was the bob i knew
his wife was dying
and we talked about different lighting
in his apartment
he was some kind of genius
this i never tried to understand
i tried to teach him how to use a computer
and we met every week
somewhere in between
he was greatness
and he once saw greatness in me
that is a heavy burden
but we all carry bob with us
and the kind of world he wanted to see —Aaron Couch

"The last time I got to see Bob was in July. I was getting ready to live in France thanks to his timely suggestions about a teaching program available to recent graduates. He was one of the most helpful people I've ever met. July was the end of a long stint I spent working for him as a part-time research assistant on the Mailer biography he was writing. For the past two years we met once a week, although more infrequently towards the end, and discussed Mailer's life, his writing, the biography project and then everything else. I learned so much in those two years working for Bob. He was my favorite person to talk with. If there was no work to be done on the biography some weeks, we would meet anyway just for the company. We talked about jazz, blues, rock n' roll, and movies. We talked about some of my favorite writers James Baldwin and Philip Roth, whom, I was pleased to find out, he had known well when Roth had spent some time at Penn. I bought him a Led Zeppelin CD for his birthday after we went to a Zeppelin inspired music concert (his idea). He was full of surprises. He saw me through those typical difficulties that a college graduate has shifting into the outside world, mercifully keeping me on as a research assistant after I graduated and desperately needed a third job. He was a great friend and I miss him terribly. I will always remember him for his storytelling, his intelligence and wit, his deep sympathy for humanity, and the way he helped me feel as if I had a lot to offer the world."—Jessie Dummer C'05

When Bob found out that he had macular degeneration, he reached out to me, knowing that, as a blind person, I could help him tap into the network of organizations and resource providers. "Why don't we talk about it over dinner," he said, and invited me to join him at the White Dog. We had already gotten into the habit of long, sprawling conversations about life and literature in his office, so it was quite natural for us to pick up threads of our ongoing discussion and become completely immersed in almost everything but macular degeneration. Long after dessert had come and gone, I asked if we should at least touch on our intended topic. "The evening has flown," he said, "and I can imagine you would want not to get back home in the dead of night. I'm sure we can find another time to talk about all of that. How about if we just make a lunch date in the future and cover it then. After all, according to my doctors, it's not as though I'm going to wake up next Wednesday and suddenly find I can't see a thing. We'll have time. By the way, how do you plan to get home?" I said I would walk to 30th Street Station and catch the next train to Lansdowne. He wouldn't let me. "That sounds awfully involved for this hour; I'll just call a car and send you home. Won't that be a lot easier?" I put up a mild protest, but could tell right away that he would have none of it. I went home in style. [For the full reminiscence, go here.]--Dan Simpson, October 10, 2007

Talking with Bob about literature was like getting an insider's perspective. There was his fund of stories about Norman Mailer, of course, and once when I mentioned that Advertisements for Myself was my favorite Mailer book, Bob surprised me by saying it was his as well. Another time we got talking on what a revelation it had been to read Leslie Fiedler's Love and Death in the American Novel when it first came out--nearly 50 years ago.

I once admitted to him that I had read Arthur Miller's memoir, Timebends, mainly to find out why Miller had married Marilyn Monroe. Bob had a few bits of helpful information that were not in the book! And then there was the Spanish Civil War, which brought out all of Bob's knowledge of the old IWW and his experience with the American Left.

I like to remember Bob and Joanne as I saw them on a warm spring evening some years ago at Penn. Joanne had just been released from one of her many stays at the hospital, and they were strolling arm-in-arm. Joanne was all dressed up and looking lovely, and Bob was escorting her happily across the campus. It was the last time I saw them together as a couple and the memory of that evening is like an enduring icon of their life together at Penn.—Dave Espey, October 18, 2007