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Rhodes Trust 120th Anniversary Reunion

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Professor Emeritus Del Kolve

(Wisconsin & Jesus 1955) (18 January 1934 - 5 November 2022)

Professor Emeritus Del Kolve

Verdel Amos Kolve died peacefully at home and without pain on November 5, 2022 from complications of kidney cancer. Larry Luchtel, his husband and companion of fifty years, was at his side. Born in rural Wisconsin, he graduated Summa cum laude from the University of Wisconsin in 1955, and subsequently attended Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, earning an Honors B.A. in English Literature with a Congratulatory First in 1957, and an M.A. and D. Phil. from Oxford while serving as a tutor and Research Fellow at St. Edmund Hall, Oxon., between 1958 and 1962. In that year he accepted an assistant professorship at Stanford University, rising there to the rank of associate professor in 1968, before moving to the University of Virginia as Commonwealth Professor of English in 1969. In 1986 he joined the faculty of the University of California at Los Angeles, becoming the first UCLA Foundation Professor, and teaching there for fifteen years before retiring in 2001.

An internationally renowned scholar of medieval literature, with a particular interest in Chaucer, Kolve was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America, serving as its President in 1992-1993, an Honorary Fellow of St. Edmund Hall, and Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was President of the New Chaucer Society for two years, in 1994-1996. In addition to many scholarly articles, he published four books: The Play Called Corpus Christi (1966), Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative: The First Five Canterbury Tales (1984, winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Prize, for “the Best Book Published by a Faculty Member in the Academic Year 1984-1985,” the British Council Prize in the Humanities, for “the Best Book by a North American Scholar on Any Aspect of British Studies in the Humanities,” and the James Russell Lowell Prize of the Modern Language Association, for “the Outstanding Scholarly Book by a Member of the Association Published in 1984”), Telling Images: Chaucer and the Imagery of Narrative II (2009, winner of the Phi Beta Kappa Christian Gauss Award, for “An Outstanding Book of Literary Scholarship or Criticism”), and with Glending Olson, an edition for teaching, Nine Canterbury Tales and the General Prologue (1989), subsequently reprinted several times.

Recognized as well as a brilliant and inspiring teacher at both undergraduate and advanced levels, Kolve opened the aesthetic triumphs of the Middle Ages to generations of students. His eloquence, learning, and close attention to all in every class were many times acknowledged  (Outstanding Teacher Award of the Graduate English Faculty Club, University of Virginia, 1971; E. Harris Harbison National Teaching Award, Danforth Foundation, 1972; Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award with Special Distinction in Graduate Teaching, UCLA 1995), but in his view never better than by the lasting respect and affection of his students. In their successes he found great joy.

A. Kolve was much loved, and returned that love widely, but not without discrimination. His absence will be felt deeply by many for years to come..