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Dr. Roger B. Wilkenfeld was born in Brooklyn in 1938 to parents Jacob and Freda. He graduated from Brooklyn College before earning his doctorate in English Literature from the University of Rochester. He taught for nearly fifty years (with a brief stint at Rutgers) in the English Department at the University of Connecticut, from 1963 until his retirement, for health reasons, in 2011. He was a specialist in the poetry of John Milton, as well as nineteenth- and twentieth-century English and American verse. His published scholarship focused primarily on Milton and on Victorian poetry and fiction. He was a much-loved presence both in and outside of the classroom at UConn—an amusing and at times cantankerous fixture at the faculty lunch table and a tireless mentor of innumerable English majors and non-majors. He helped found the UConn Honors Program, and was instrumental in the development of the annual Wallace Stevens Poetry Program, which brings visiting writers of international renown to the UConn campus. In his later years, he continued to approach teaching with uncommon verve and creativity, in such courses as "Muses and Masters," which examined influential writers and artists alongside the people (often other artists) who most deeply inspired their work. A popular and gregarious professor, he was known for his brilliant wit and his encyclopedic knowledge of poetry, painting, ballet, and film—subjects on which he loved to discourse at length, to the delight of family, friends, colleagues, and students. A born ironist, he was also a charming, affectionate, and devoted mentor, friend, and father. He was possessed of a rare joie de vivre which he retained from his youth even through the health problems that afflicted him in his final years. Those who knew him will always remember him warmly as a true original. He died at Windham Hospital on the afternoon of Friday, (October 4, 2013) after a long battle with cardiac illness. He is survived by his two loving children, Dora, who works in communications at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, and Jacob, an English professor at the City Colleges of Chicago and a doctoral student at the University of North Carolina. He is also survived by his former wives, Zara Wallace, an editor and teacher, Alice Stitelman, president of a communications firm, and Marilyn Nelson, Professor Emeritus of English at UConn, a former Connecticut State Poet Laureate, and mother of Jacob and Dora. His brother, Bruce, and sister-in-law, Polly, reside in Cleveland.
A memorial service will be held at the UConn Co-op on Sunday, October 27 at 2:30 p.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to the UConn Honors Program via the UConn Foundation. The Potter Funeral Home, Willimantic assisted with arrangements. Please visit www.potterfuneralhome.com for online memorial guest book.

Published in The Hartford Courant on Oct. 15, 2013
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