W. Brock Fagan

English Faculty

To:  All Staff Members
From:  J. W. Maucker
Date:  December 23, 1968

Word has been received that Mr. W. Brock Fagan, Emeritus Professor of English, passed away on December 21, 1968, in Houston, Texas, where he had made his home with his daughter for the past two years.

Mr. Fagan was born in Richmond, Indiana, in 1887.  He received the B. A. degree from Earlham College in 1910, the M. A. degree from the University of Kansas in 1915, and took additional graduate work at Johns Hopkins University.  He taught at Park College and Johns Hopkins University prior to joining the staff at University of Northern Iowa in 1915 as an assistant professor of English.  He was advanced to the rank of professor in 1919, assumed emeritus status in 1955, and continued to serve in that status until 1967.

Brock was a colorful figure and, to judge by the inquiries concerning him from returning alumni, one of the faculty members most successful in getting under the skin of students.

The family indicated that a funeral service would not be held; Mr. Fagan's body was willed to the Baylor University School of Medicine.

February 3, 1969

2. Thompson moved adoption of the following resolution:

As we refresh our memory of Brock Fagan, the scholar, teacher, and man, let us dispense with the customary laudatory adjectives and attend to what he stood for and meant to three generations of students, colleagues, and community friends.

By his colleagues who knew him best, he will be remembered for his high academic standards; his interest in students who, as he said, "meant business"; and his unrelenting ironical approach to students with ability who refused to use it.  His most loyal supporters were those students who, having once smarted under his demand for excellence, had themselves become older and wiser, and as teachers learned to admire him.  He was respected for the right reasons, never loved for the wrong ones.  As late as 1960, the most often inquired-about teachers in the department by former students were Brock Fagan and Hazel Strayer.

By his most knowledgeable English colleagues he will be remembered for his intelligent, inductive approach to the English language and linguistics which made him an early defender of descriptive grammar as opposed to prescriptive grammar.  Until about 1946-1948 when younger men with special knowledge of the English language were brought into the department, Brock Fagan was, by dint of self-education, years ahead of his colleagues in this discipline.

He will be remembered for his philosophical habit of mind which often illuminated both sides of a controversy, his humor and salty wit, and especially for his subtle, gentle irony, the indelible mark of the civilized man.  Were he alive among us today at forty years of age, he would understand the country's campus dissidents:  he was an early faculty pioneer in the controversy himself as he urged the use of the democratic process in all campus affairs.  Indeed, in a very real sense he lived too soon.  As he grew older it was the newer, younger staff members who understood him best, and accepted him as a modern fellow spirit in academic life.  He was withal an unusual combination of the classical eighteenth century man of reason, order, and restraint; and of the twentieth-century inductive investigator who accepts a democratic morality as his first article of faith.


H. W. Reninger

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