William C. Watterson

William C. Watterson died on May 01, 2024, in Auburn, Maine.

(The following was a notice from President Zaki on May 03, 2024:)

From: President Zaki <zaki@bowdoin.edu>
Sent: Friday, May 3, 2024 10:44 AM

I am very sorry to report that William Collins Watterson, Edward Little Professor of the English Language and Literature Emeritus, died on Wednesday, May 1, in Auburn, Maine, at the age of 74.

I did not have the opportunity to meet Bill, but I’ve learned that he was known in our community as a scholar and poet. He was an active member of the teaching faculty in the English department from 1976 until his retirement in 2015. He chaired the English department from 1988 to 1990, and upon his retirement, our trustees voted him emeritus status.

William Watterson was born on June 7, 1949, to Charles H. and Nellie Collins Watterson. He attended the Peddie School in Hightstown, New Jersey, where he was class president. After earning an AB degree, cum laude and with high honors in English, at Kenyon College, he earned a PhD in English at Brown University in 1976. He was hired at Bowdoin as an assistant professor in the English department in 1976. Over the years, he taught courses on Shakespeare, pastoral literature of the English Renaissance, contemporary American poetry, film, and poetry writing. Bill was promoted to associate professor in 1983, full professor in 1992, and in 1999 was named the Edward Little Professor of the English Language and Literature.

Bill’s poetry appeared in many publications, including The New Yorker, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, The Sewanee Review, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and the Warren Wilson Review. For a number of years, Bill was a judge for the Longfellow Prize for poetry in Maine.  He was the author of two books of poetry, numerous reviews, and articles in edited volumes and journals, including Milton Quarterly, Hamlet Studies, The Virginia Quarterly Review, The Upstart Crow, Nineteenth Century Studies, and the Bowdoin alumni magazine. A member of the Shakespeare Association of America, he was also associate editor of Shakespeare and the Classroom newsletter. He participated in a program sponsored by The Maine Humanities Council, the Maine Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities that exposed his understanding of literature to a broader audience through lectures, seminars, and summer programs.

A polymath, Bill brought his knowledge and appreciation of art, classical music, antiques, and antiquarian books to bear in his teaching and in his personal life. He was a trustee of the New York School of Interior Design from 1983 to 1990. His students and colleagues found him to be an engaging conversationalist. Two of his former students established a summer internship in the creative arts at Bowdoin in honor of Bill and his mother.

Bill was predeceased by his parents and by his sister, Melody Watterson Mancuso. He is survived by a brother, Charles A. Watterson, and by several nieces and nephews.

We will let the Bowdoin community know of any plans for a memorial service.

By all accounts, Bill Watterson was a teacher, a scholar, and an admired colleague. I know you join me in offering condolences from the Bowdoin community to his family and friends.



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