THE MEMORIAL PROGRAM
BOYD RECITAL HALL
WILSON MUSIC BUILDING
GLASSBORO, NEW JERSEY
FEBRUARY 19, 2003, 7:00 PM
[Page 4 - Image of the first Underground Grammarian]
Testimonials and Emails to This Web Site
Dr. Nathan Carb: He was, simply put, the most intelligent man I've ever known. I looked to Shakespeare for quotes to use at this service, and I've come up with two. The first is from Antony and Cleopatra, and describes Cleopatra, "Age cannot wither [him], nor custom stale / [His] infinite variety. (2.2. 245 - 246). The other is from Hamlet. Hamlet is speaking about his father, " 'A was a man. Take him for all in all, / I shall not look upon his like again." (1.2. 187 - 188).
Dr. James Haba: Mitchell admitted he "committed
poetry" sometimes and that Mitchell considered poetry a crime "a
little worse than shoplifting" but admitted that he did commit
this crime occasionally.
Sandy Norcross: I went to Dr. Mitchell's memorial
service last Wednesday. It was well attended in spite of bad weather.
Three of his four daughters were there, most of the English department,
many of his prior students, (I was one of them), and, of course, his
widow, who looked remarkable well considering she has had recent surgery
for cancer. The mood was upbeat and all of the speakers had many humorous
stories to tell. If you need a copy of the program, I would be happy
to send one. A scholarship fund has been started in Dr. Mitchell's name.
I did not see one tear, and yet everyone there had been touched by Dr.
Mitchell's writing, teaching, and friendship. What I found most interesting
were six poems that were written by Dr. Mitchell and read to us by Dr.
Haba. I did not realize that he wrote poetry. Four were apparently published
twenty years ago. I am trying to find a copy of them.
Toni Calvello: I was Richard Mitchell's student from 1983-1988. He was my advisor and considered me "his" student. I took many classes with him during that time. The most important thing he ever said to me was, "Gollatz, I've known you for many, many years. I knew you before you were even born, did you know that?"
I still remember so much about the time spent with him, but what stands out most now, years later, is the way he instigated me. I used to write very ornery papers. He told the whole class one time that I was "very outspoken, not outspoken enough, and that I just didn't know that yet." He was always trying to bring out the rebel in me, and then he would laugh with glee. He was very bad!
Dr. Mitchell had very bright, blue eyes that shone like diamonds and was well loved by many, many people. He is truly missed.
Charles O'Connor: I was saddened to learn that
he had died. For many years my father was his doctor (no blame due there--my
father died years ago), and I was privileged to meet Dr. Mitchell. When
I was in my feckless 20s and wanted to be a writer, he gave me the best
advice I ever received. He said that since my father was a doctor and
surely had money, I could concentrate fully on writing as there was
no need for me to have a job. (Dad was not amused.)
Current student: The class was early; I was late. I went into Dr. Mitchell's office after class. Mitchell looked up at me and said, "You know right from wrong don't you?"
I replied, "Yes."
Mitchell said, "Then do it."
I miss him.
The Philadelphia Inquirer (Weds. Jan 1, 2003):
Richard Mitchell, 73, language gadfly
By Kristin E. Holmes
Richard Mitchell, 73, a retired English professor at Rowan University known for his witty and acerbic writings on the inadequacies of American educators, died of complications from diabetes Friday at his home in Pitman.
Dr. Mitchell's satiric dressing-down of teachers and professors gained him a national following that included commentator George Will, newsman Edwin Newman, and Johnny Carson.
A professor of classical and Western literature, Dr. Mitchell used his newsletter, the Underground Grammarian, to expose the linguistic crimes of educators he said were paid to know better.
"Imagine, $38,000 for a man who can't make his verbs agree with nouns. What boobs," he said in a 1983 interview with The Inquirer.
In his books and essays, Dr. Mitchell skewered teachers, professors and administrators with sarcastic humor, but he was serious about the effect that ill-prepared and incompetent educators have on young students.
"He thought that what you write implies how you are thinking," said his wife, Francis McNeily Mitchell. "If your writing is stupid, then your thinking may be all muddled up."
Dr. Mitchell stepped into his role as commentator on the English language in 1977 when he began distributing the Underground Grammarian by hand at Glassboro State College, now Rowan.
Using hand-set type and a 19th-century printing press in his basement, Dr. Mitchell produced an irreverent publication that listed the linguistic offenses of deans and professors who Dr. Mitchell said wrote "like apes." He quoted from memoranda written by educators, listing names, positions and sometimes salaries.
Dr. Mitchell had joined the school's faculty in 1963 after earning a doctorate in American literature from Syracuse University and teaching college English in Defiance, Ohio. He retired in 1991 but continued to teach some courses.
Before the Internet, Dr. Mitchell and his wife mailed copies of his monthly newsletter to nearly 6,000 subscribers. He wrote four books on language and education, including Less Than Words Can Say and The Graves of Academe. He appeared on The Tonight Show with Carson several times.
In addition to his wife, Dr. Mitchell is survived by daughters Amanda Merritt, Felicity Myers, Sonia Armstrong and Daphne Keller, and five grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held later.
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