Thomas-Van Laan-Obituary

Thomas F. Van Laan

New York, New York


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1931 - 2017Thomas F. Van Laan died on November 5 in San Diego, California. Van Laan was a Professor Emeritus of Rutgers University, where he taught English Literature for thirty-five years and was Department Chair from 1983 to 1989. After spending three years in the army, Professor Van...

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R Harper and T Van Laan 1974 graduation

I was a graduate student in Prof. Van Laan's Modern Drama class in the early 1990s. His wit and depth of knowledge were always appreciated.

Tom Van Laan was a mentor and friend. In 1989, he appointed me Director of Undergraduate Studies for the Rutgers English Department, which I later served as Chair. I had not imagined a role in administration, but Tom saw something in me that I had not seen in myself. I am grateful for that and for the many good laughs we shared along the way. He was a wise and witty man.

Thomas Van Laan was my dissertation director at Rutgers University in the 1990s, and I couldn't have asked for a more generous, dedicated, and brilliant mentor. He had a witty sensibility that also made him a lot of fun to work with. Tom helped put me on a path that has enriched my life in so many ways, and I will be forever grateful. I have thanked him in the acknowledgements of every book I've written, and will continue to do so. He will surely be missed, but lives on in his work and...

While Chair of English at Rutgers, Tom led the committee that hired me (1983). We shared and debated issues in our field--modern drama--and a love for Ibsen. Needless to say, Tom loved him more. A witty, wry and wonderful colleague and friend.

I knew Professor Van Laan as a student and as a friend. I had interests in English lit and the theater and he had an incisive understanding of both.The following is from a letter sent to Tom's wife, Char:

"...I knew Tom over a 45 year period, He was a mentor to me; he was the director of my honors thesis at Rutgers and then a fellow watcher of films for 20 years. We shared interests in literature, the theater, baseball and politics. I respected his intelligence, admired the...

What an accomplished man. He will be missed but grateful he didn't have to suffer to long. May you find comfort in the many memories.

I was honored to host and perform the reading of Professor Van Laan's brilliant translation of THE PRETENDERS (STUFF OF KINGS) at the Antaeus Theatre Company in Los Angeles a few years back.

What a pleasure to be able to explore that great Ibsen masterpiece with the stunning mind and great humor of Professor Van Laan.

He will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.