Dr. John Boening, Professor Emeritus and former Chair of the English Department at the University of Toledo (UT), 72, died at the Toledo Hospital on June 18, 2014. John was a loving and beloved husband and father, and a learned and devoted teacher. He was born in Brooklyn, NY, received his B.A. in English from Pace College (now Pace University), M.A. from the University of Maryland, and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Indiana University, where he was a University Fellow studying under a remarkable group of émigré scholars who helped found the discipline in the United States.
John was an internationally recognized scholar in comparative literary studies, devoting his professional life to examining the ways in which the world's literatures interact and influence one another. His ten-volume compilation, The Reception of Classical German Literature in England, 1760-1860: A Documentary History from Contemporary Periodicals was hailed by reviewers in leading comparative literature journals and has become the standard reference work on the subject.
John was a voracious reader with a passionate and lifelong love of poetry. Particularly drawn to the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke, he was still working on his translation of Rilke's art criticism at the time of his death. He published scores of articles and reviews in major professional journals, and contributed to many scholarly books and reference works. John also held numerous offices with national and international scholarly organizations, serving as chair of the Division on European Literary Relations of the Modern Language Society of America (MLA), and was twice elected to the MLA's Delegate Assembly. He also served as editor of the Bulletin of the International Comparative Literature Association.
John joined the UT faculty in 1969, and considered his greatest achievement there to have been his leadership of the original University of Toledo / Toledo Museum of Art committee on the art program, which paved the way for the Museum's teaching staff to become full members of the University faculty. He was also proud of the role he played as faculty representative to the Trustee's Select Committee on University Governance (called the "Blue Ribbon Committee") in the early 1980s. John drafted the final report formally recognizing the faculty's right to meaningful participation in decisions involving academic matters. His greatest disappointment as UT English chairman was the Ohio Regents' defunding of the Department's doctoral program as part of a statewide move to cut graduate education in the humanities. John strongly believed that the humanities deserved a larger - not a smaller - place in the curriculum, especially in an age of globalization. John kept in touch with a worldwide circle of friends and professional colleagues, and took great pleasure in following the progress of his former students, many of whom also became lifelong friends.
As a native of New York City, he could not pass a day without his beloved New York Times. He was particularly proud of one of his letters to the Times which contended that the well-known adage "God is in the details" was not coined by the architect Mies van der Rohe, as people believed, but by the great art historian Aby Warburg. To John's delight, his letter elicited weeks of lively discussion on the Letters page of the Sunday Arts section.
John is survived by his wife, Sally, a retired school psychologist, and his daughter Emily, who is his pride and joy. She is a former Legislative Assistant to U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur and is currently a Presidential Management Fellow and Foreign Services Officer at the U.S. Department of State. John will also be greatly missed by his two feline companions, Sherlock and Watson.
A memorial service will be held at a later time. The family asks that anyone wishing to make a donation in John's memory consider a contribution to the scholarship fund of West Side Montessori Center (7115 W. Bancroft St., Toledo 43615), to the Toledo Metroparks, or to the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. Arrangements by Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home, Maumee, OH.
Maison-Dardenne-Walker Funeral Home
501 Conant St
Maumee, OH 43537
Published in Toledo Blade on June 22, 2014