I am saddened to share with you the news that Professor Richard Helgerson passed away on Saturday, at home with his family, after a valiant struggle with pancreatic cancer. Professor Helgerson was an esteemed faculty member in our Department of English for four decades. He was a renowned scholar, a beloved teacher, and a highly respected colleague who contributed immeasurably to our campus and to the world at large.
Dr. Helgerson was the chair of our English Department from 1989 to 1993. He was chosen by our colleagues to be the 1998 Faculty Research Lecturer, our campus’s highest scholarly honor. He authored six influential books in the field of Renaissance literature, including Forms of Nationhood: The Elizabethan Writing of England, which won the British Council Prize for the best book in any area of British studies and the Modern Language Association’s James Russell Lowell Prize for the best book in any area of literary studies. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, and UC President’s Fellow. Among many other distinctions, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Spenser Society in 2005.
Here on our campus, Professor Helgerson was known not only for his international stature as a scholar, but also for his humanity, integrity, wisdom, and generosity. He was an inspirational mentor to colleagues and students alike. His humble nature and sincere care for others touched all who were fortunate to know him. Richard was deeply devoted to this campus. He leaves behind a legacy that will never be forgotten.
A tribute to Professor Helgerson is posted on the English Department’s website at http://emc.english.ucsb.edu/. A fund for graduate students has also been established in his honor. For those who wish to contribute, donations can be made out to “The UCSB Foundation” and indicated “for the English Dept. Richard Helgerson Graduate Achievement Award fund” and sent to Joni Schwartz in the English Department. Those who wish to send cards of condolence to the family may also send to the English Department in care of Joni Schwartz.
Our hearts go out to Richard’s wife, Marie-Christine, and his daughter, Jessica, who provided such loving care to him in his final days. I was honored to have the opportunity to visit with Richard and his family last month. His warmth, wit, and keen intelligence still sparkled. I was especially touched by his courage and the peace he held in his heart.
Professor Helgerson gave himself wholeheartedly to his family, his colleagues, his students, and his work. We are blessed to have known him, and we will miss him always. In his honor, our campus flag is lowered to half-staff today.
We will be holding a memorial service to celebrate Professor Helgerson’s remarkable life on Friday, May 23, from 4 to 6 p.m. at the Faculty Club. I invite you to join us in honoring the memory of our dear colleague and friend.
Henry T. Yang