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Clarence D. Thorpe
LSA Minutes

Clarence DeWitt Thorpe
1887 - 1959

Clarence DeWitt Thorpe, Professor Emeritus of English died at his home in Ann Arbor December 22, 1959, at age seventy-two.

Professor Thorpe was born on a farm near Iowa Falls, Iowa, on December 14, 1887, a son of Levi Thorpe and Anna Martin Thorpe. He graduated from Ellsworth College in Iowa Falls in 1911. A year later he received the Master of Arts degree from the University of Arizona. At The University of Michigan, he completed a second master's degree in 1915, and the Ph.D. degree in 1925.

His career as a teacher was long and illustrious. He was Chairman of the English Department at Northern Arizona Normal School from 1912 to 1918; for the next three years Assistant Professor of Rhetoric and English at the University Arizona: and from 1921 to 1924, Chairman of the Division of Written and Spoken English at the University of Oregon. In 1918 he was at Camp Pike, an infantryman in the OTC. Professor Thorpe joined the faculty of The University of Michigan in 1924 as Instructor in Rhetoric. Three years later he was appointed Associate Professor of Rhetoric. In 1929 he became Professor of English and the Teaching of English in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and in the School of Education, a position he held until 1950, when he relinquished responsibility for the training of teachers of English and became Professor of English in the Literary College.

Professor Thorpe served as Chairman of the English Department in the University High School from 1929 to 1936. This position brought him into active leadership in the field of the teaching of secondary English, both in the state of Michigan and in the nation at large. In the first year of his new appointment he wrote the widely influential "Report" of a committee of the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges which had been given the task of defining the goals and standards of high school English. To convey the impact of the "Report" to Michigan schools, Thorpe rallied the Michigan Council of Teachers of English and from its ranks drew the Michigan Committee for the Articulation of High School and College English. For this Committee he edited the well-known pioneer pamphlet in the field of articulation, Preparation for College English. First published in 1935, the booklet became a best seller of the University Press. It carried Thorpe's influence into the classrooms and curricula of the high schools of America. His contribution to better high school English was recognized by the Michigan Council of Teachers of English when, on the occasion of his emeritation, it bestowed on him a scroll praising his inspirational leadership and devoted service."

Thorpe's influence on the teaching of English in college is indicated by the popularity of the text College Composition (largely written by himself) and of the anthology University Readings, which he helped to assemble.

Professor Thorpe's scholarship was devoted largely to the field of criticism. His The Mind of John Keats, published in 1926, attracted international attention and the commendation of such distinguished critics as J. Middleton Murry. This book he had affectionately dedicated to his wife, Frances Jackson Thorpe. In 1940 his The Aesthetic Theory of Thomas Hobbes was published jointly by The University of Michigan Press and the Oxford University Press in London. His critical articles have appeared in many scholarly journals such as Publications of the Modern Language Association, Modern Language Notes, The Philological Quarterly, The Times (London) Literary Supplement, The Journal of English and German Philology, and the New York Times Book Review Section. Until the time of his death he was constantly solicited to undertake reviews of important new books for scholarly journals.

Gifted as an administrator, Professor Thorpe served his Department and his College on its executive committees, contributing much to the executive committee system as it now functions in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. He served onthe University Policies Board, on the Senate Advisory Committee, on the Senate Council, on the Graduate Committee of his College, and on President Ruthven's Advisory Committee.

An idealist, he was an active participant in faculty, staff, and professional society discussions he could be depended upon to support the sterner, the more difficult, of alternative proposals when the question was one involving standards of education and of scholarship. He was for many years an office-bearer in the local Presbyterian church, carrying out his dictum that the intellectual has an obligation to identify himself with the forces and institutions that contribute to the health of society.

"C. D.," as he was addressed in the circles in which he was best known, exemplified in his person and bearing the truly "gentle" manners of the scholar, the man of culture and of good taste.

To his widow and to the members of Professor Thorpe's family, the College expresses its profound sympathy.

Albert K. Stevens
Fred G. Walcott
Erich A. Walter