UCSB English professor Richard Helgerson passed away this weekend at the age of 67 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Helgerson, who was a member of the UCSB faculty for over 35 years, is survived by his wife and daughter. His academic career was distinguished and marked with a variety of honors and accomplishments, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a University of California President’s Fellowship and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Spenser Society. He also served two years in the Peace Corps in Atakpamé, Togo.
A memorial service will take place on Friday, May 23 at the UCSB Faculty Club from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
After being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2005, Helgerson was still a mentor to his students, according to Eric Nebeker, an English graduate student.
“Up until his final weeks, he did whatever he could for his students, more than what anyone would expect from someone with his illness,” Nebeker said. “I’ll take his example with me throughout my life, and am grateful I had the opportunity to know him.”
Professor Helgerson was born on Aug. 22, 1940 in Pasadena, Calif. He began his life in academia by earning a B.A. in English at UC Riverside. After receiving his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in 1970, Helgerson started teaching at UC Santa Barbara.
He was world-renowned in his field of Renaissance Literature, in which he wrote six books. This dedication inspired his students, friends and colleagues, who were grateful for his presence in their lives, English graduate student Judith Hicks wrote on a WebLog set up in his memory.
“While feeling that his loss is very much to have to bear and too soon, [we] probably all share a great sense of gratitude as well for his magnanimous presence, his tremendous wisdom and scholarship, and, one might almost say, romantic attachment to the beauty of his primary literatures, which he displayed with wit and style, while keeping us firmly grounded to earth in our own work with texts,” Hicks said. “He gave us, his students, what we could never have earned — his affection.”
The blog is accessible from the Early Modern section of the English Dept.’s Web site, www.emc.english.ucsb.edu.
The English Dept. has established an award in honor of Helgerson’s life. Donations can be made out to the UCSB Foundation with a note earmarking the funds for the Richard Helgerson Achievement Award Fund. They should be sent to Joni Schwartz in the English Dept.
Fellow English professor Patricia Fumerton said in Helgerson’s obituary that she will greatly miss him, both as a friend and colleague.
“[Richard Helgerson’s] academic and personal life were at all times marked by exemplary acuity, curiosity, dedication, leadership, humility, generosity and grace,” Fumerton said. “The praise once directed to William Shakespeare could as equally be spoken of Richard Helgerson: ‘He was not of an age but for all time.'”