Remembering Doyle Fosso, Professor Emeritus of English Literature

Professor Doyle Fosso looks up from an open book in his office in 1975. This photo was in the 1975

Professor Fosso in the 1975 Howler

Professor Emeritus of English Doyle Fosso passed away on February 9, 2022. A cherished colleague and popular teacher (especially with our better students) in our department for thirty years, Doyle earned his Ph.D. at Harvard (he wrote his dissertation on Spenser’s The Fairie Queen) and taught at the University of Vermont before coming to Wake Forest in 1965. Until his retirement in 1995, Doyle taught courses in Renaissance Drama and Poetry. In those days, we had many more majors than we have now, and Shakespeare was still a required course. Doyle taught the Shakespeare course in Tribble C-216, which at that time held 63 students; it was often full. His lectures, as recalled by students, were theatrical events. Students recall how he “performed” many speeches from Shakespeare’s plays in class, and recited poetry from memory. He delighted in Shakespeare’s lyricism and word play. Post-retirement, he was awarded the Reinhardt Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2000, nominated by his students from the class of 1990. He returned to campus to receive the award. 

 Although seemingly shy at times, and cerebral, he served on many university committees, and even chaired the University Senate. He wrote and published poetry, encouraged by visiting poet and colleague, A. R. Ammons. Barry Maine remembers how Doyle used to grade midterm and final exams in our former department lounge (now the Xerox room and Gail Adams’ office), with a cigarette placed between every five bluebooks in his large stack. Students often found his intellect intimidating and his standards for achievement unreachable. Claudia Kairoff recalls how “when I’d been here for only a year or two, I remember being in the ZSR stacks and overhearing two women students pursuing their research for his final paper, speaking in hushed tones about their fear and anxiety. Even I felt frightened by the assignment, just hearing them talk about it!” Tom Phillips, as a former student, remembers how he was “especially helpful, encouraging, and patient with those students who really studied the material closely.” 

A few years ago, Barry Maine travelled with Tom Phillips and Jim Barefield to the Fosso farm in Walstonburg, North Carolina, in the eastern part of the state, to which he had retired. Professor Maine writes that they “enjoyed a delightful lunch with Doyle and Evelyn, who were very happy in their rural setting. The farmhouse was furnished with antiques and the walls were covered with contemporary art they had collected over many years, and their conversation more often than not focused on frequent visits from beloved grandchildren. His retirement was a happy one.”

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