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Robert Alan McGill

Robert Alan McGill

June 15, 2009

Robert Alan McGill, associate professor emeritus of English and a scholar of Native American literature, died June 14, 2009, in Gainesville, Florida.  He was 84.
 
Born Aug. 3, 1924, in Philadelphia, Alan was the third son of George and Bessie McGill. After graduating from Upper Darby, Pa., High School, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served overseas.  He and Mary Laurence married in 1946. She survives him.
 
Alan attended Dickinson College on the G.I. bill, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in American studies.  He began his teaching career at Westminster College in New Wilmington, Pa., then joined the faculty of Dickinson College before coming to Skidmore in September 1959.
 
Alan and Skidmore colleague Ralph Ciancio, professor emeritus of English, shared a scholarly interest in American literature and were neighbors in the department’s Union Avenue office on the Scribner campus.  Said Ralph, “Alan had an unusual poetic sensibility, a keen eye and ear for finding poetry in unsuspected places—in discursive writings as well as short stories and novels. I also recall his published insights into Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House. But first among Alan’s academic priorities was effective teaching. Toward that end he was a strong advocate of student evaluations long before they became a policy at Skidmore. He was an indubitable success as a teacher for many reasons, but many students praised especially his innovative pedagogy. Alumni from that era I happen to come upon at campus reunions continue to remember his courses with great appreciation.”
 
Former Dean of Special Programs Don McCormack often played tennis with Alan and remembers that he was a vigorous and energetic competitor. “Alan’s interest in Native American studies was way before the time,” said McCormack, adding that they often had lively discussions about ethnic, Native American, and African-American studies during the 1970s, an era when the disciplines were beginning to generate greater interest among students and scholars.
 
Alan taught at Skidmore for 25 years, retiring in 1984. He and his wife moved to Florida at that time, settling first in the Tampa/St. Petersburg area before moving to Gainesville. The couple shared a lifelong love of music, especially choral singing. They were members of the Willis Bodine Chorale, the Gainesville Civic Chorus, and the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Chalice Choir.  They also belonged to the Adirondack Baroque Consort when they lived in Saratoga Springs and were members of the American Recorder Society.
 
In addition to Mary, his wife of 62 years, Alan is survived by a daughter, Kathryn McGill of Clifton Park; a son, Douglas (Bernadette) of Malta; granddaughters Lisa Clark (Dean) of Ballston Spa and Kate Derby (Tim) of Portland, Ore.; and great-grandchildren Luke and Abby Clark, and Lucy Derby.

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