1922 - 2019
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PREYER, Robert O. "Bob" Nov. 11, 1922 - Nov. 15, 2019 The last survivor of "The Preyer boys" of Greensboro, NC. He was preceded in death by his brothers William Y. Preyer, Jr., L. Richardson Preyer, Norris W. Preyer and Frederick L. Preyer and his wife Kathryn "Kitty" Preyer. Bob attended Choate Preparatory School and Princeton University. His college years were interrupted by service in the Navy from 1943-45 in Hawaii. In 1947, he married Renee Haenel and began graduate studies at Columbia University in English Literature. In 1948, their first daughter, Jill, was born. While completing his dissertation under Lionel Trilling, he taught at Smith College where daughter Sally was born in 1950. After teaching at Amherst College, the family moved to Princeton, NJ where he taught at the university and his third daughter, Liz, was born in 1953. In 1954, Bob began his long teaching career at Brandeis University, where he was a professor of English and American literature until his retirement in 1987. The family moved to Germany in 1957 for two years when Bob was a Fulbright Professor at the university in Freiburg. After returning to the United States and Brandeis, he divorced and in 1965 married Kathryn "Kitty" Conway, a professor of US Legal History at Wellesley College. Bob was an early and passionate advocate for the Transitional Year Program and the Posse Foundation at Brandeis, both programs supporting economically disadvantaged students. He also established the Preyer Scholarship Endowment. In addition to his academic pursuits, Bob was a lifelong philanthropist, a believer in social, racial and economic justice. He was on the boards of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the ACLU, and Eyes on the Prize. Bob will be remembered for injecting quotes of poets and writers into every conversation. One of his favorite lines from William Wordsworth was "The best portion of a good man's life: his little nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and love." When he retired, Bob established the most unusual (no longer) anonymous Wellington Prize at Brandeis. The monetary prize was awarded by lottery to non-tenured young faculty, strictly for the purpose of joy and delight. Recipients could not use their prize money for research, instead they were to use it creatively to play. An additional requirement was that the winner had to describe their exploits at the first faculty meeting of the year. Our father believed that play was essential for a life well lived. He was an avid sailor, skier, tennis player and lover of the outdoors. He had a lifetime reputation of being the "fun guy" and for being a risk taker. His personal physician still recalls an episode at age 85 when Bob dislocated his shoulder while body surfing in Mexico with Sally's family. In 2003, Bob and Kitty moved from their stately Victorian house in Cambridge to Brookhaven, a retirement community in Lexington, Massachusetts. Following Kitty's death in 2005, Bob married his longtime friend Mary "Mandy" Nash at age 85. They shared many happy years together at Brookhaven. Bob had a glorious and long life. A thoughtful and extensive traveler, Bob's favorite place on earth was Elizabethtown, NY, in the Adirondack mountains, where he maintained a summer home for 72 years. His daughters will scatter some of his ashes there in loving memory of the many hikes, canoe trips, swims, and gin and tonics on the deck overlooking the mountains. He will be missed by his wife Mandy, daughters Jill Preyer of Asheville, NC, Sally Preyer LaVenture of Louisville, CO, and Liz Preyer and Morris Letsinger of Asheville, NC. His four granddaughters and their families are grateful for his long life, Heather and Darrin Friedman, Rainy LaVenture and Adam Tarr, Willow LaVenture and Adam Engel, Melanie and James Clayton. Seven great-grandchildren, beloved nieces and nephews and one sister-in-law also survive. As our father often ended his phone conversations and letters, "Onward and upwards." Services are private.

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Published in Boston Globe from Nov. 19 to Nov. 20, 2019.
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2 entries
November 16, 2020
Bob was a teacher and friend as I made my way through the Ph.D. program in English&American Literature. I admired him as teacher and person. I arrived in his classes in my thirties. When I appeared now and then at his office door, he enjoyed greeting me: Well, Old Man, how's it going? It's not too strong a statement: he made my Ph.D. possible, guiding me through classwork, getting my dissertation approved in the Department. Over the decades, a number of exchanges--he never failed to respond, even most recently as he was off to another period in Germany. Ever grateful, I, for the opportunity to know and learn from this man.
Richard P Flanagan
November 20, 2019
Mr. Preyer,
Sir, I would just like to say thank you for your service and sacrifice for our Country when you served with the USN in the Pacific during WW II and for being a member of the Greatest Generation. And to your Family and loved ones, I wish to extend my deepest sympathy.

Fair Winds And Following Seas
Mike Casey(former Ma resident)
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