Last spring, the English department held a symposium to honor Frank Shuffelton as he became a professor emeritus after 40 years of teaching and scholarship at Rochester.
A distinguished panel of scholars discussed the importance of Frank’s work in the field of 17th- and 18th-century American literature. That work had earned him a lifetime achievement award from the early American literature section of the Modern Languages Association just two years before.
Many scholars also wrote to testify to their personal and professional debt to Frank, whose cheerful and encouraging presence and his willingness to assist younger scholars is something of a legend.
Frank, who died in March, was my colleague for 22 years, during which he taught me extraordinary lessons about how to produce engaged scholarship in my field of 19th-century American literature. Frank was focused on the American Enlightenment, and especially on the protean figure of Thomas Jefferson. His name became deeply associated with the best, most useful, and most interesting work being done on Jefferson. In addition to dozens of influential articles, he completed, in the early 1990s, one of the great resources in Jefferson studies: a two volume, comprehensive, annotated bibliography of writings about Jefferson that begins in 1826 and ends in 1990. Thomas Jefferson: A Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Writings about Him is a monument to scholarly commitment, generosity, and intelligence.
Frank was likely to enter rooms with a good humored wave and one of two signature greetings: either “Hiya, hiya, hiya” (which he once told me he adapted from the Howdy Doody Show, which he had watched as a boy); or “Greetings, scholars.” When Frank was chair of the department, he organized a conference in honor of the 50th anniversary of our graduate program in which many of our alumni, now members of the profession themselves, returned to give papers and share memories. One distinguished professor, teaching at the University of North Carolina, remembered how Frank had been the first person ever to call him a scholar. Frank’s greeting had been, for him, an important moment of self-realization.
John Michael is the chair of the English department at Rochester.