A Lasting Legacy


A Conversation with Eugene Clasby


What inspired you to give back to the College of Arts & Sciences by establishing the Nancy T. Clasby Endowed Scholarship Fund?
My wife, Nancy, loved her students and they loved her. She taught some of the most difficult material there is to teach and she did it with grace and clarity. She was always looking out for the student who needed a chance to succeed, a lift up that would set them on the way to achieving their dreams. That was Nancy’s constant concern and care, and that is what this scholarship program is about: helping students who need a chance to find that chance.

You served as the Director of the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) Program for 25 years. Can you sum up that experience?
What we started out to do was create an interdisciplinary graduate program that would give people an opportunity to come back to the University to learn—as they often said, “all the things they should have learned the first time around.” It turned out that there were a lot of people who wanted to do just that. They came from all walks of life—all inspired by the desire to learn more about the world around them and their relation to it. The Program grew rapidly, and following the transfer to the College of Arts and Sciences, became mature in its mission of offering quality interdisciplinary education to a group of enthusiastic and highly skilled students. None of this would have been possible without the dedication and high qualifications of the MALS faculty.

What are your areas of specialty or expertise?
I am a medievalist, specializing in Chaucer and Middle English poetry, particularly lyric poetry. My teaching assignments include the English Literature survey courses and a Shakespeare course. I am a translator as well. I have published two volumes of the Old French trilogy by the French monk Guillaume de Deguileville.

You’ve seen a lot of change at UM, what have been the most notable changes since you first set foot on campus?
The students are much better qualified than they were when I first arrived. Those early students were not untalented, but the efforts begun by former UM President Tad Foote and the Faculty Senate to bring the highest quality students to our campus were successful beyond anyone’s original imagination. We are now in competition with the best universities in the country. Also, the campus has been physically transformed thanks to the work of President Foote and his wife Bosey. They worked tirelessly to make the University a beautiful place to live and learn and work.

What is one book everyone should read?
Not a book, but a play: Macbeth. It shows how a good man can do terrible things because of a desire to be loved and admired.

If you could sit and have coffee with a literary figure, who would that be and why?
It’s a toss-up between Chaucer and Shakespeare, but Chaucer wins the toss, because he is a very funny man. Not that Shakespeare is a dullard, of course, but it takes him a while to get started. Better would be dinner with both of them. Now that would be an evening.

Who has inspired you?
My mother, who earned a law degree from Portia Law School in Boston in 1926 and raised eight children with my co-inspiration, my father, whose integrity often got him in trouble with authority but never with God. Next, my teachers at Boston College: Ed Hirsh and Al Duhamel who taught me what it meant “to gladly lerne and gladly teche.” My sister Miriam-Louise, in ways too numerous to mention, and my colleagues and friends at UM, particularly those in the Faculty Senate who taught me about integrity and dedication and about what love of the University truly meant. And, not least, my brave, darling, wife Nancy.

 

 

 

 

November 29, 2017