William Cocke Mullen
{ "" }
Share William's life story with friends and family
Send an Email
Or Copy this URL to Share
1946 - 2017
Family, friends and students mourn the death of William Cocke Mullen, of New York City and Annandale-on-Hudson, NY.

A professor at Bard College where he helped develop the Classics Program, he started the West Point–Bard Public Speaking Exchange and introduced rhetoric to the Bard Prison Initiative. He brought The Readers of Homer (a nonprofit organization that provides a method for reading Homer's epics aloud in a continuous audience-participation format) to Bard. In 2013–14, he served as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Air Force Academy where he encouraged students to relate classical heroism to modern war.

A graduate of Harvard and the University of Texas, he published Choreia: Pindar and Dance, with the Princeton University Press. Mullen's special interest was Greek and Latin and the Western classical tradition.

Curious in every sense of the word, he searched for the classical origins of topics as diverse as Chinese poetry and planetary movement's influence on ancient myths. He sailed the Baltic Sea with students to investigate whether the Iliad had taken place there instead of in the Mediterranean.

Predeceased by his sister Elizabeth Mullen (Reilly) Cobb, he is survived by four siblings: Talmage (Eric) Steele, Joseph (Patricia) Mullen, Janet Den Uyl and Christopher (Alison) Mullen, and eleven nieces and nephews.

Contributions may be made to Bard College online at Annandaleonline.org/bcf.

A memorial service will be conducted at Bard College May 7, 2018. Arrangements were entrusted with the Joseph J. Darrow Sr. Funeral Home Inc. 39 So Hamilton St. Poughkeepsie, NY 12601 845-452-1840

To Plant Memorial Trees in memory, please visit our Sympathy Store.
Published in New York Times from Nov. 10 to Nov. 11, 2017.
Memories & Condolences
Not sure what to say?
View Printed Guest Book
13 entries
May 6, 2018
I was so very sorry to hear of your brothers passing, he will be greatly missed. Bill was such a nice fellow and Fantastic teacher
March 9, 2018
Professor Mullen taught my "Writing and Thinking" orientation seminar when I came to Bard as a freshman in 1988. Since I had studied Latin for a year or two during the summer, I thought I would continue in college. I took his introduction to Latin course my first semester, but alas, was too intimidated (and distracted) to continue. I went on to major in Theater, with an attempted double major in Literature. (Theater took up far too much time.) Bill was a dear friend and great teacher. I wish I'd stuck it out with him. One of his long-lasting observations: "Slowness is beauty." I was happy to reconnect with him after his retirement here in New York. Farewell, Bill!
January 2, 2018
I wrote an email to Bill even before I started attending Bard College in the Fall of 2002. I had learned he ran the Bard/West Point Exchange and eagerly let him know I wanted to take part. As a conservative student with an interest in political and military affairs, Bill was a refuge and an intellectual mentor. After graduation, I spoke with him several times a year, and made numerous visits to his lovely apartment at the church rectory. Without question, my fondest memory was reading the History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides with him in seminar. I want to make this clear: I loved this man like a father and will always remember him.

Captain Alex Weinstein, USMC
Captain Alex Weinstein
December 19, 2017
Bill Mullen w. John Allman ca. 1967
Bill and I were close friends and fellow poets in college. Fond memories of climbing the Dunster House bell tower and taking bus rides to Northhampton to visit Ronnie and Maria Bannerjee. After 40 plus years out of touch, we got together again when my son Liam was looking at Bard. We enjoyed good times of renewal but far too few. He drafted me to read a section of the Iliad about the death of Patroclus at the Getty. My fondest new memory is of sitting with him and a gathering of his former students in my back yard and seeing the respect and reverance they felt toward him. We'll miss you, Bill, and your allusions to Pindar and others during dinner conversations. Requiescat in pacem.
John Allman
November 23, 2017
I loved you like a father, Bill. I will miss you forever.
Sandy Berkowitz
November 22, 2017
A brilliant researcher and excellent writer.
Lewis Greenberg
November 21, 2017
We were the best of buds. Missing you, Bill. RIP
Bill and I were the best of buds, will miss him greatly.
Andrew Fitts
November 19, 2017
Bill, your erudition, your conversation, your poems, and your gift for laughter will be

missed by all of us who knew you well and counted you as a friend.
Sissy Luyat
November 18, 2017
Bill always loved words. By fourth grade he had a card file full of them. He liked reading the dictionary and boasted that he had found the longest word in the English language. It was in his file. The word he lorded over his siblings was antidisestablishmentarianism. In a way it defined him. He was oppositional and conservative politically but he loved challenging the establishment with outlier theories like Velikofskys catastrophism. He was the kind of person who enjoyed public speaking best when Bards purple-hair students shared their thoughts across the river with crew-cut cadets at West Point.

By fifth grade our mother scoured Little Rock, AR, to find a French teacher, Gabby Edmonds, who adored her sessions with Bill. He now lorded it over his siblings in two languages. By eighth grade the nuns at Holy Souls School persuaded our parents that Bills love of language would be nurtured best in boarding school.

After a summer in Michigan where he broke his shoulder falling from a very high rope swing tied to a tree half up a sand dune, Bill was sent to Portsmouth Priory in Rhode Island. It happened that the airplane trip from Little Rock took two days with a layover in NYC. When our mother returned from putting Bill on the plane the school called to say the electricity was down due to a hurricane and school was delaying the opening for a week. Too late. Bill arrived and spent his first week in boarding school alone in the infirmary waiting for school to open. He loved walking in the woods and sometime near that premature beginning, a skunk sprayed him. A combination of southern charm, a broken arm and a distinct smell made him so memorable he was elected class president. Politics was not really his strong suit and he tried to transfer out, but ultimately stayed at Portsmouth where he fell in love with Greek, Latin, western literature and poetry.

While at Harvard, Bill met Robert Lowell, Robert Fitzgerald and Richard Wilbur, poets he admired greatly. And the whole family figured he was homosexual. In those days one did not readily come out, so he was well into his thirties be the time he told us. By that time it was no surprise to anyone.

Bills health was always precarious and he and we all thought hed die before he was fifty. It was a surprise when he didnt die young. And now it is a surprise that he died. We will miss him on holidays and visits to New York and when something excellent reminds us of how much he would have appreciated it.

Bill was Bill. A brilliant, extrovert, poet, linguist, professor, public speaker uncle, brother. He wasnt particularly big on the afterlife, but I hope there is one. Id like to be with him again.

Talmage Mullen Steele,
Oldest sister of
William C. Mullen
Talmage Mullen Steele
November 12, 2017
A shrine set up by Bill's grandnieces and grand nephew in Chicago.
eric steele
November 11, 2017
Bill, you were a dear friend for many years. We enjoying seeing many beautiful places together. I shall miss your brilliant mind, your cornucopia of poetry (which you could recite in several languages), your conversations so full of insight, and your good humor.
Norman Austin
November 11, 2017
May God bless you and your family in this time of sorrow.
November 10, 2017
Bill will be greatly missed by many friends, family, colleagues and students. Additional remembrances from the Bard College community may be found at annandaleonline.org
Tammy Steele
Invite others to add memories
Share to let others add their own memories and condolences