SLATE, Joseph Evans|
professor of English, died July 16, 2014, at the age of eighty-six after a short illness. He will be remembered academically for his extensive knowledge of poet William Carlos Williams and author James Joyce, modernist literature, poetry, and an expansive understanding of film, in particular the adaptation of literature into screenplays. In his social life, his love of story was equaled, if not surpassed, by his passion for cooking and exploring the world of food with his wife, Patricia Bauer-Slate.
Born on New Years' Eve, 1927 in Lubbock, Texas, Joe lived on the family farm in Amherst until a move to Oklahoma City in 1936. He served in the Army from 1944 to 1945, studying Japanese in the Army Specialized Training Language Program in Minnesota. Joe earned a B.A. in English with minors in German and Japanese in 1949 and an M.A. in English in 1952 from the University of Oklahoma. He received a Ph.D in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1957. After two college positions Joe found his academic home in the English Department of the University of Texas at Austin in 1959, holding the position of associate professor of English for 45 years until a stroke-induced retirement in 2004. Joe's academic experiences were greatly broadened through two Fulbright teaching fellowships: At the University of Vienna during 1973-74 and at the University of Montpellier in 1994-95.
In 1972 he married Patricia Bauer, future co-founder and longtime proprietor of Sweetish Hill Restaurant and Bakery. Joe and Patricia's sojourns abroad fueled a desire to bring fine European dining and baked goods to then-unsophisticated Austin palates. In Sweetish Hill's locations Joe's was a familiar face -- as greeter, caterer, preparer of the world's best smoked salmon, and always its greatest fan. Joe and Patricia opened their home frequently for food events. Joe dreamt up imaginative food extravaganzas, in his strong belief that great food and wine shared by friends was the best life could offer - once, for example, "harvesting" local wildlife to create a monumental North African pigeon pie. Another time his plan for roast suckling pig went awry when the subject briefly escaped, leading the party on a merry chase through the wilds of Clarksville.
Joe touched many students over his long teaching career in different ways. His published works on Williams have been well relied on by dissertation candidates. In the 1960s Professor Slate began teaching English courses that connected literature and film, and was the original faculty sponsor of the University of Texas student film club. Many students and friends watched films at his Central Austin home and enjoyed the trivia games he dreamed up, like the Anthony Quinn name-his-race contest. Many remember Joe's fancifully decorated office door at Calhoun Hall, behind which mountains of books barely left room for his desk and the student he was advising.
Joe was gifted with artistic skills--sketching for pleasure, illustrating books of poetry, or gifting his unusual cork artifacts. He possessed a fine tenor voice--heard from the lectern or in the late hours of parties. He was an avid gardener as well as a talented forager, able to sort tasty mushrooms from the treacherous and locate edibles growing in the cracks of the sidewalk. Joe's cultural tastes were his alone. In music, he loved both classical opera and classic Austin. One of the last songs he requested by name was Jerry Jeff Walker's version of "Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother." He was a grand-even heroic-walker, and never held a driver's license.
With his wish to die at home, a loving village of friends and family offered round-the-clock care, a fitting tribute for a man who sat many hours at the bedside of others. The family is deeply grateful. Joe was preceded in death by his parents, Roberta Robinson Slate and Hurlburt Slate, and a brother, John H. Slate. He is survived by sisters Marilynn McKnight and Phoebe Hicks; his wife, Patricia Bauer-Slate; daughter Bridget Slate; daughter Ann Slate Gaspari; and son John H. Slate; former wife Audrey N. Slate; grandchildren Ruby and Henry Slate, Isabella Dilger, Peter Gaspari, Christina Gaspari Sudderth, and Daniel Gaspari. He is also survived by many loving nephews, nieces, in-laws and cousins. A future service will be announced. You may share memories of Joe on joeslate.org. Instead of flowers, please make memorial contributions to Amnesty International or Mary House Catholic Worker in Austin.
Published in Austin American-Statesman from July 18 to July 19, 2014