Antique Vintage 13

Hugh Witemeyer

June 10, 1939 ~ May 1, 2022 (age 82)

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Professor Hugh Witemeyer passed away on Sunday, May 1, 2022, about a month short of his 83rd birthday which would have been celebrated on June 10.

He is preceded in death by his father Benton Witemeyer and mother Dorothy Hazen.

Hugh was survived by his wife Barbara Ellen Watkins Witemeyer, daughter Hazen Allison Witemeyer, and brother Wayne Witemeyer (Hilda).

His wider legacy includes major contributions to the world of English literary studies, the reputation of the English department of the University of New Mexico and it's faculty and students, and amateur dramatic performance in Albuquerque. The gold standard for achievement as a literary critic is the single author monograph, and Hugh's work passes this test with flying colors, to mix a metaphor. His first book The Poetry of Ezra Pound: Forms and Renewals (1969) reveals a fine literary critical intelligence at work on one of the most difficult and controversial American poets of the twentieth century. His second book, George Elliot and the Visual Arts (1979), Hugh once declared "came from his heart". The volume demonstrated his critical abilities across artistic genres on the work of  one of the greatest 19th century English novelists.

Another important task of the literary Scholar is editorial. Hugh edited several volumes if letter and other writings by the poets Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, William Butler Yeats, and Charles Tomlinson. He also published selections of the letters of Senator Bronson Cutting of New Mexico and the renowned publisher James Laughlin. Hugh published numerous critical articles in specialized scholarly periodicals including one in PMLA, a most prestigious venue.

Before coming to New Mexico, Hugh earned degrees in English literature from the University of Michigan, Oxford University (while holder of a prestigious Marshall Scholarship), and the doctorate from Princeton University. He also taught for several years at the University of California at Berkeley.

After joining the faculty of English of UNM in 1973 besides being an outstanding teacher, Hugh undertook more than his share of service responsibilities. He served as president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors on two occasions. There are a few more important and thankless jobs than this one, but Hugh filled it admirably. He was often called upon to defend the sometimes indefensible complainers against asserted academic injustice whether real or imagined. He also led drives to have UNM grant authors Leslie Marmon Silko and Robert Creeley honorary Doctorate degrees, highlighting the outstanding achievements of two famous English department graduates.

After his retirement in 2004, Hugh threw his boundless energy into supporting local amateur theatre. In addition to playing parts in many local productions, he co-founded the Albuquerque Theatre Guild. This was an organization encompassing the over fifty groups that present dramatic performances at various venues around Duke City. It became the go-to organization for amateur theatre in the city. When memorization of dramatic texts became difficult, Hugh turned his talents to singing in a choir and performing in a Radio Theatre which performed old radio scripts. These groups went to various senior centers and residences to entertain elders. For these and other volunteer efforts, he was awarded the Andrus Award 2018 from the New Mexico branch of American Association of Retired Persons.

If Hugh's many talents were not sufficient, he also proved to be very entertaining dramatist when two of his English colleagues celebrated their own retirements. He created a parody of a James Bond film about the "kidnapping" of the apostrophe from the world of letters. Accompanied by a self-dubbed audio pastiche of Bond music, the comedy, the parts played by English faculty members, proved vastly entertaining to a standing room only audience in the theatre of the English department.

Hugh Witemeyer  will be sorely missed, but his impact on students, colleagues, and numerous others will live on.

Contributions may be made to: Doctors Without Borders


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