University remembers life of Dr. L. W. Irwin

Amanda Hanley

The Villanova community lost a well-respected and admired professor from the English department on March 23.

Dr. L. W. Irwin died of cancer at Bryn Mawr Hospital. He was one of the longest-serving faculty members in the department, teaching for 41 years.

“He wanted to teach until the end,” said Dr. Evan Radcliffe, chair of the English department. “He had a strong sense of duty as a teacher and was very dedicated to his work.”

Irwin’s field of expertise was English Renaissance literature. He earned his bachelor’s degree at Baker University in Kansas, his master’s degree at the University of Kansas and his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin.

“He was a lover of literature and words and understood the importance of bringing in outside material to his classes,” Radcliffe said.

Irwin often brought in copies of Renaissance manuscripts or drawings of Shakespearean costumes.

Irwin will be fondly remembered by many of his students.

“I wasn’t very confident in my writing abilities and did not have any interest in literature, let alone in the pastoral poetry of the British Romantics,” said Paige Jones, one of students. “Dr. Irwin’s class ignited my passion for poetry. Dr. Irwin was not only one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, but he also had a quirky personality, which was instantly likable.”

While he was a private person, Irwin was known for his sharp sense of humor.

“Dr. Irwin was undeniably a genius at what he did – he dissected poems and identified abstruse references to works like Horace’s ‘Ars Poetica’ and Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses,’ which was fascinating,” Jones said. “He recited verses of ‘The Canterbury Tales’ by heart. His zeal for his subject was infectious, and he made his students want to analyze poems more closely with a more critical eye.”

“My experience with him, although short, has changed my view of literature and made me appreciate him even more as a professor,” said Beth Harris, another student of Irwin’s. “He will be greatly missed.”

“It is such a tragedy because I established a strong connection with Professor Irwin over the past semester,” student John LaCerda said. “Students will surely miss him.”

A funeral Mass was held on March 29 in the chapel of New Sharon Convent in Rosemont. Rev. John J. Hagen, O.S.A., presided over the Mass, which was followed by a reflection from Dr. Robert Wilkinson.

Memorial contributions can be directed to the department of English, Villanova University or the University of Pennsylvania Abramson Cancer Center.