Darryl James Gless

Obituary
  • "Just heard about Darryl's passing. We shared an apartment..."
    - Tom
  • "For many of us in graduate school at UNC, Dr. Gless was a..."
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  • "Darryl Gless literally changed my life, by teaching and..."
    - Patricia Patrick
  • "Darryl was a glorious student and advisee of mine at the..."
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  • "God Bless"
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Darryl James Gless

Chapel Hill

Darryl James Gless, Distinguished Professor of Renaissance Studies in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina, Rhodes Scholar, loving husband and expectant father, died peacefully with his beloved wife Friederike by his side at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center on June 10, 2014. He suffered from myelofibrosis, a bone marrow failure disease, and died of multiple organ failure following an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant in late April. He was 68.

Darryl was born on December 4, 1945 in Schuyler, Nebraska, the son of the late Frank Gless and Vivian Gless who ran a clock, watch, and jewelry store in town. Having graduated from the University of Nebraska with a major in English in 1968, he won a Rhodes Scholarship to study at the University of Oxford (Lincoln College), where he joined a distinguished class including Bill Clinton, Dennis Blair, and Robert Reich. In 1975 Darryl received his doctorate from Princeton University with expertise in Renaissance literature. Having taught for a time at the University of Virginia he moved on to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he would spend the rest of a distinguished career that culminated with his receipt of the Roy C. Moose Distinguished Professor of Renaissance Studies in 2009. Darryl's published work, featuring books on William Shakespeare and the epic poet Edmund Spenser, reflected his profound understanding of religious and intellectual history as well as his exceptional gifts as a literary interpreter.

Darryl was as brilliant in the classroom as he was in his scholarship, guiding several decades of undergraduate and graduate students, many of whom will cherish their time in his classroom. His exceptional teaching was recognized with a University Tanner Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1983 and the Board of Governors' Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2013. Darryl was also a central figure in the development of two outstanding educational programs, the First-Year Seminars at UNC and the Robertson Scholars program in which students study at both UNC and Duke.

During his years in Chapel Hill, Darryl served UNC in a number of important administrative positions, including chair of the Department of English and Senior Associate Dean for Arts and Humanities. For Darryl, such high-profile service was not just a matter of helping a great university to function; but it allowed him to take a leadership role in the defense of the humanities as those precious studies were beginning to come under attack. It was Darryl's dedicated, and far-sighted support for the humanities that prompted President Clinton to appoint him to the National Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1994. No matter his accomplishments, he always thought of himself as a product of a small Nebraska town. The Schuyler Community Schools Foundation named him a distinguished alumnus in May of this year.

With his wife Friederike Seeger, Darryl was an avid traveller, a skillful gardener, a cat lover, a life-long learner, and an excellent cook who loved to eat. To all who knew him, he was the warmest, kindest, and most generous of friends. Although he lived for the past fifteen years under the threat of a debilitating blood disorder, he was unfailingly eager to contribute everything that he could to the lives of his students, colleagues, family, and friends, and he lived every day of the last years of his life with courage and gusto.

Darryl was preceded in death by his father, Frank Gless and his brother, Richard Gless. He is survived by his wife Friederike Seeger and their unborn daughter Elena "Leni" Gless; his mother Vivian Gless of Seward, Nebraska, brother Francis Gless of San Diego, California; brother Alan Gless of Seward, Nebraska; sister Valerie Masters of Port Orchard, Washington, five nieces and eleven nephews; as well as his cats Buddy and Salem. While it is heartbreaking that Darryl did not live to see his daughter, it is also wonderful that she will embody his spirit and goodness into the future.

Our deepest appreciation goes to all doctors, nurses, and therapists at the UNC Lineberger Cancer Center who provided Darryl with the best possible care.

Darryl Gless's family asks that in lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be made to the Darryl Gless Graduate Student Support Fund at UNC-Chapel Hill. Please send checks by mail to Arts and Sciences Foundation, Campus Box 6115, Chapel Hill, NC, 27599-6115, with a note in memo line (or attached correspondence) that the gift is for the Darryl Gless Graduate Student Support Fund or follow this link to make a contribution online: http://giving.unc.edu/gift/custom/index.htm?fndpic=104336&p=aasf.

The family also requests that friends consider donating blood and platelets and register as a bone marrow donor in his memory.

The University will hold a memorial service to honor and celebrate Darryl's life and career in late August, exact date to be determined.
Published in The News & Observer on June 15, 2014
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