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In Memoriam: Raymond P. Tripp, Jr. (1932-2005)


A Remembrance by Alexandra H. Olsen, University of Denver

Raymond P. Tripp, Jr., Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Denver, died on February 1, 2005. He had been ill with an inoperable brain tumor; during the early hours of February 1 he awoke with labored breathing and died at the hospital that afternoon. He had been a dedicated Professor of English, a prolific scholar of great intellectual honesty known widely for standing for quality in the face of the proponents of mediocrity, and a kind and generous colleague and friend known to everyone as "Ray."

Ray was born in Acushnet, Massachusetts, graduating first in his high school class of 1951. He then enrolled at the University of Massachusetts but served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1957 and returned to the University of Massachusetts, graduating Summa Cum Laude in English in 1960. He was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and received his MA from the University of Toronto in 1963. He received his PhD from The Union Graduate School in 1971; his doctoral dissertation was published in 1977 as Beyond Canterbury: Chaucer, Humanism, and Literature. He taught at several schools before he came to the English Department of the University of Denver in 1968, where he taught a wide variety of linguistic and medieval courses until his retirement in 1999, and also taught courses and directed dissertations in nineteenth century American and English Romantic literature. His former students remember that he always summarized his teaching philosophy as "you have to try, and I won't lie." He gave his students not only academic guidance but also humane encouragement. Despite his heavy teaching load and research commitments, he never turned away a student. During his active career he often traveled, taught, and lectured in Japan and was a frequent visitor to England.

Ray was known for his scholarly work in medieval studies, from Old English through the fifteenth century, and also in American literature. His criticism was implicitly epistemological and focused upon the evolution of consciousness outlined by Owen Barfield. He was co-founder of The Society for New Language Study and a longtime editor and contributor to the organization's journal In Geardagum. He read many conference papers and published numerous articles on a wide variety of subjects. His books include Reflections on Walden (1972), "Man's Natural Powers": Essays For and About C. S. Lewis (1975), Beyond Canterbury (1977), More About the Fight with the Dragon (1983), The Mysterious Kingdom of Emily Dickinson's Poetry (1988), Literary Essays on Language and Meaning in the Poem called "Beowulf" (1992), and Two Fish on One Hook (1998), a Walden commentary. The last book he completed during his lifetime, In Search of Salt: a Perennial Comparison of C. S. Lewis and Owen Barfield, was published by the SNLS in 2005, just before his death.

He remained professionally active until his death, truly dying as he had lived, though confined to a wheelchair after the summer of 2004 and partially paralyzed shortly before his death. An essay, a personal hagiography of Thoreau, appeared in the February issue of The St. Mark's Lion, the issue that announced his death. He has left behind two manuscripts on Beowulf, one on word-play and one tentatively entitled The Dragon-King in Beo¬wulf; these are being edited by Peter J. Fields and Elizabeth Howard for posthumous publication.

Ray was married to Susan Jane Scofield, a Sanskrit scholar, from 1959 until her death from cancer in 1999. After her death, he moved to Vermont, settling in Concord, where he gardened, renovated and expanded a log cabin overlooking Shadow Lake, and continued his writing. He married a second time, and is survived by his widow, Miyoko Tanahashi, a retired banker and poet. Ray was in minor orders in the Western Rite Orthodox Church, taking the name SubDeacon Bede the Venerable. A skilled carpenter, he produced decorative carpentry for St. Mark's Church; after Susan's death, he designed and contributed a rose window in her memory. St. Mark's is beginning a major renovation and is planning to dedicate the chapel and tower to Ray, who helped design them. Contributions may be sent to St. Mark's Church (Raymond Tripp Memorial), 1405 South Vine St., Denver, CO, 80210.

Ray's professional colleagues at the University of Denver and across the world remember that he was always generous with his time, reading drafts of essays, providing helpful comments and exchanging offprints of published works. Like Beowulf, he was manna mildust ond monðwærust. He will be greatly missed.

OEN 38.3 (Spring 2005): 7-8.