Thomas R. Arp, a former instructor of English at Bowdoin (1960-62), died on July 30, 2015, in Dallas, Texas.
(The following appeared in The Dallas Morning News, September 1, 2015)
Thomas Roscoe Arp was a committed English professor and faculty leader during his more than 35 years at Southern Methodist University.
He taught American literature, poetry and fiction before focusing his passion on the works of Shakespeare. He had been chairman of the Faculty Senate, adviser to the Phi Beta Kappa Society and co-editor of two widely used textbooks, retiring as a professor emeritus.
Arp, 82, died July 30 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas of complications following a fall at his home.
A memorial will be at 2 p.m. Sept. 11 in the theater at Edgemere retirement community, 8523 Thackery St. in Dallas.
“Tom was the smartest kid around,” said his younger brother, William Arp of New York. “He just seemed to know everything about everything.
“He was outgoing, erudite and a charming conversationalist. His knowledge of music and drama and literature was unbounded.”
Arp was born and raised in Detroit. He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Michigan, where he set his sights on becoming a professor.
He received a Woodrow Wilson fellowship at Stanford University, where he earned his master’s degree in 1960 and his doctorate in 1962. He taught American literature at Bowdoin College in Maine, Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley.
Arp spent summers touring abroad. He was a visiting professor of American studies at Hull University in Yorkshire, England, and a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Bucharest in Romania.
In 1969, Arp joined the SMU faculty, where he taught American literature and introductory courses in poetry, fiction and drama.
In 1970, he began teaching Shakespeare, which became his specialty. In 1971, he started a course to study an array of arts in London during the winter break. His wealth of experience became a teaching tool.
“Part of my function will be to help show how the arts, both past and present, reflect and define 20th-century concerns and values,” Arp said in 1971. “The history of London really enhances understanding of what is going on there now.”
Arp built a remarkable collection of recorded music, operas and plays, which he used as teaching tools, his brother said.
“He would show a performance of Hamlet by Olivier and Hamlet by Mel Gibson and anybody you can think of,” his brother said. “That was an aspect of his bringing Shakespeare alive to students using audio and visual techniques.”
In 1982, Arp joined SMU’s Laurence Perrine as co-editor to update Perrine’s textbooksSound and Sense, an introduction to poetry, and Story and Structure, an introduction to fiction. Arp became the sole author of the books in 1997, two years after Perrine died. Greg Johnson joined Arp as co-author in 2002.
The two classic textbooks are widely used by high school and college students. In 2007, Perrine’s widow, Catherine, gave SMU a $3.3 million bequest, aided by royalties from the textbooks.
In 2005, Arp retired as professor emeritus and continued teaching Shakespeare through SMU.
Arp is survived by his brother.