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Edgar Branch

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BRANCH, Edgar Marquess Age 93, Miami University Research Professor of English Emeritus and Associate in American Literature, died August 14, 2006 at his home in Oxford, Ohio. He was the husband of Mary Jo Emerson Branch, whom he married in 1939 and with whom he had three children: Sydney Elizabeth, Robert Marquess, and Marian Emerson. He was born March 21, 1913, in Chicago, the son of publisher Raymond S. Branch and his wife Marian Marquess. His two sisters, Sydney and Beverly, taught in the Economics and French departments, respectively, at the Western College for Women in Oxford, where Sydney later became a member of Western's Board of Trustees. In 1934 Branch earned a B.A. degree from Beloit College and-as the Beloit College Foreign Fellow-studied at University College of the University of London, England, during his junior year. He then attended Brown University for a year on a fellowship in philosophy, earned a M.A. degree in American literature from the University of Chicago in 1938, and, as a teaching fellow, a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa in 1941. He taught in Miami's English Department from 1941 to 1978. During World War 2 at Miami he instructed cadets in the U.S. Navy V-12 program and in the Naval Radio School. From 1959 to 1964 he was chair of the English Department. As chair during a period of rapid departmental expansion, he helped lay the foundation for the department's future accreditation for doctoral instruction and personally hired the entire English department of Wright State University, when it was being established by the State of Ohio through the cooperative effort of Miami and Ohio State University. Branch's literary interests were in Southern and mid-and-far-Western American Literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He was the author or editor of fifteen books and scores of articles, most of them dealing with the life and writings of two Midwestern authors: Mark Twain and the Chicago realist James T. Farrell. Among his books are The Literary Apprenticeship of Mark Twain; Clemens of the Call; James T. Farrell; Studs Lonigan's Neighborhood and the Making of James T. Farrell; and A Paris Year: Dorothy and James Farrell in Paris, 1931-1932. He was the literary executor of the James T. Farrell Estate and a member of the Board of Directors of the Mark Twain Project at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1992 Branch received the Mark Twain Circle of America's "Lifetime Achievement Award," and in 1994 the "MidAmerica Award for Distinguished Contributions to the Study of Midwestern Literature," from the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. In 1995 he was awarded the first "Modern Language Association Prize for a Distinguished Scholarly Edition" (Mark Twain's Roughing It), considered the "Pulitzer Prize" of scholarly publication. The following year he received the "Ohioana Pegasus Award" for "unique and outstanding cultural contribution by an Ohioan" from the Ohioana Society. Branch also was a Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in 1978-79, and a Senior Fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1971-1972 and again in 1976-1977. He received Miami's "Benjamin Harrison Award" in 1978, the "Nancy Dasher Book Award" from the College English Association of Ohio in 1981, and a "Distinguished Service Citation Award" from Beloit College in 1979. His contributions to Miami's undergraduate and graduate programs are /remembered in a Bachelor Hall seminar room dedicated to him, and in the Weigel-Branch Scholar-Leader Study in Elliott Hall. He was a co-founder and the first president of the Miami University Friends of the Library, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Psi Honorary Society, Beta Theta Pi social fraternity, and many professional organizations. Survivors are his wife Mary Jo, his daughters Sydney Daly and her husband Gerald of Chatsworth, Georgia, his daughter Marian Williams of Shaker Heights, his sons-in-law James Diez and Scott Williams, grandchildren Matthew Diez and his wife Sunita Wagle, Jeffrey Diez, Robert, Olivia, and Laura Williams and a great grandson, Kai Diez. A private family service will be held. Memorial contributions may be made to the Miami University Friends of the Library. Smith & Ogle Funeral Home assisting the family.
Published in Journal-News from Aug. 16 to Aug. 18, 2006
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