In Memoriam: Robert W. Emery
Whether helping students craft persuasive essays or penning his own songs and poetry, College of General Studies Assistant Dean Robert Emery was devoted to the art of writing. “Rather than specializing in a given period or form of writing, I was interested in them all,” he said, “and indulged this interest shamelessly.”
Emery (GRS’70, SED’81), who directed the CGS Writing Center and taught rhetoric courses at the College, died on June 14, 2010, after a six-month battle with cancer. He was 66.
Born in Newton, Massachusetts, in 1943, Emery earned a bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Pennsylvania in 1966 and later earned a master’s degree in English and a doctorate in education from BU. He joined CGS in 1978 as director of the Study Center—a precursor to today’s CGS Writing Center—and eventually took on administrative duties as an assistant dean and teaching responsibilities as an adjunct assistant professor of rhetoric.
Colleagues say Emery was a dedicated teacher, always generous with his time. “He was committed to his students’ growth, as writers but also as thinkers and as people as well,” says Matthew Parfitt, chairman of the rhetoric division. “He was somebody who was enormously experienced and qualified, and yet students felt they had a very personal relationship with him. He was unstinting in the way he gave his time and his gifts to them each individually.”
Emery was humble about his own talents, colleagues say. He made no fuss over his published textbooks, songs, and poetry, and only when he pulled out his guitar to play for College social functions did faculty and students realize he was an accomplished musician as well as a teacher and writer.
Emery grew up in a musical family—“The old farmhouse where I was raised was filled with any number of fiddles, potato-back mandolins, ukuleles, saxophones, a beautiful mahogany piano, and an old pump organ,” he once wrote—and began playing professionally at age 14. He played guitar and sang with the bluegrass band Northern Lights in the 1970s and 1980s and also wrote, played, and recorded with Grammy winners Peter Rowan, Del McCoury, and Alison Brown.
CGS Dean Linda Wells has announced plans to name the CGS Writing Center in Emery’s memory. The College will hold a dedication ceremony for the center during the annual CGS Distinguished Alumni Awards reception, schedule to be held Friday, October 29, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Katzenberg Center on the third floor of the CGS building.