Phillip West, professor emeritus of English, died March 20, 1997, in Saratoga Springs. He was 60.
Born in San Francisco in 1936, he studied theology, psychology, and great books at Chaminade Preparatory, the University of San Francisco, and St. Mary’s College before earning a B.A. in English from San Francisco State. He earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from Rutgers; his dissertation focused on the writings of the eighth-century scholar Bede. In the early ’60s Phil served in the Army, teaching broadcast journalism.
Phil was a faculty member at Rutgers and Queens College before joining Skidmore, where he taught courses in medieval literature and humanities from 1969 until his retirement in 1992. He also taught English courses regularly at Great Meadows Correctional Facility as part of Skidmore’s University Without Walls program.
During his Skidmore career, Phil’s scholarship appeared in publications ranging from Monastic Studies to James Joyce Quarterly, on subjects as diverse as medieval literature, Halley’s comet, Hobbes’s Leviathan, and labyrinths. For a January-term course, he and 18 students spent a week living at a monastery near Elmira, N.Y. Later, building on his studies of bee mythology and beekeeping in ancient and modern cultures, he taught the Liberal Studies course “Buzzwords: The Idea of the Bee.” Upon his retirement, Dean of the Faculty (and fellow English professor) Phyllis Roth observed, “The sheer scope of Phil’s field of references and teaching expertise is awe-inspiring, making him one of the most versatile of the teaching faculty in our literature, composition, and classics offerings.”
An avid amateur naturalist, Phil spent much of his free time traveling the national parks of Washington, Oregon, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.
He was survived by son Justin West ’98, four stepchildren, and sister Susan West of Napa, Calif.
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