Harrison T. Meserole (1921-2006)

Harrison T. Meserole (25 July 1921 – 20 December 2006)

By Carla Mulford

Dear Colleagues,

Today’s newspaper brought news of the death of Harrison Meserole, a stalwart early Americanist and superb student of New England literature and culture, beloved mentor of many early Americanists practicing in the field today, and renowned bibliographer whose work proved the backbone of what we now know as the MLA Bibliography. Harry was my predecessor at Penn State, where colleagues often told wonderful “days of Harry” stories to my delight, when I first arrived to State College. He and his wife, Dorothy Roman Meserole, raised prize-winning orchids in their State College home. Harry retired from Penn State and took a teaching position at Texas A & M, where he finished his professorial career.

The days when the field was first becoming “a field” were not easy. Harry was one of the strong spokespersons who made sure early Americanists’ work was noticed and “counted.” Others will have known Harrison Meserole much better than I, and I know there are many “Harry Meserole” stories out there. In the message below appears the statement from the local Centre County, Pa., newspaper.

Yours, today in reflection about how fast time passes,

Carla Mulford

Published in the Centre Daily Times on 12/22/2006:
Harrison Meserole, PhD July 25, 1921 -December 20, 2006

Harrison Meserole, 85, of Bryan, Texas, passed away Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2006, at St. Joseph Regional Health Center. He was born July 25, 1921, in Brooklyn, N.Y., to William H. Meserole, III and Marion Talbot Meserole. He received his PhD from the University of Maryland and spent 25 years in State College, before moving to Bryan 21 years ago. He retired from the Texas A&M University as a Distinguished Professor of English. Dr. Meserole held memberships in numerous professional organizations, the author of several books and a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Bryan. He had a passion for raising orchids, reading and was an avid lottery participant. He was preceded in death by his first wife, Dorothy Roman Meserole, in 2001. He is survived by his wife, Priscilla Letterman Meserole, of Bryan; brother, William H. Meserole, IV, of Kent Island, Md.; and numerous nieces and nephews. A Memorial Service will be held in January. Memorials may be made to the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives of Texas A&M University, 5000 TAMU, College Station, Texas 77843-5000. Hillier Funeral Home
Carla Mulford
Department of English
Pennsylvania State University
112 Burrowes Building
University Park, PA  16802

By Zabelle Stodola

Thanks to Carla Mulford for circulating to the list Harrison T. Meserole’s obituary. In 1992, I edited a collection of essays in honor of Harry, my mentor and dissertation director at Penn State. The Foreword that J. A. Leo Lemay graciously wrote as well as my own introduction give some sense of the man and his accomplishments (and there is a wonderful photo of Harry as the frontispiece). But nothing can capture the force of his presence, both personally and professionally. Stephen R. Yarbrough, who was Harry’s student at Penn State and his colleague, for a while, at Texas A and M University, wrote this testimonial which I quote in my introduction:

“To send Harry a poorly written essay is, to those who know him, unthinkable. To say something foolish in a department meeting, when Harry is present, is unthinkable. To be churlish with one’s colleagues once one has had Harry for a colleague, to be stingy with one’s students when one has had Harry for a teacher, is unthinkable. He is, simply, a living standard that one does not forget.”

Through his dual interests in bibliography and early American literature, Harry Meserole was one of the foremost scholars to fashion the field of early American studies into the vital, exciting, and still expanding area that it is today.

Zabelle Stodola

(Dr.) Zabelle Stodola
Professor of English
Director, William G. Cooper, Jr.,
Honors Program in English
University of Arkansas at Little Rock

By Ben Fisher

I was never a student of Harry’s, but when my fulltime career took off in the 1960s he headed the MLA bibliographical work for PMLA. So we began to correspond, then to meet at MLA and NEMLA conventions. Back in those days Harry looked like a clean-shaven Santa, an appearance that altered radically because of considerable weight loss once he was diagnosed with diabetes. He frequently sent me copies of hard-to-find publications cited in the MLA bibliography, was inevitably helpful in solving bibliographical problems for me, and was also a delightful host. On several occasions he wrote recommendations for my job searches. After he relocated to Texas we met now and again at SCMLA conventions, and when I prepared my Frederick Irving Anderson (1877-1947): A Biobibliography (1987, 1988), I dedicated the book to Harry and Clarence Gohdes (who had been my teacher at Duke) because their own bibliographical works had mightily assisted me, and both men had become personal friends. Harry was pleased. For several years previously he had used copies of one of my earlier articles on Anderson, chiefly bibliographical in nature, in his classes in Bibliography at TAMU. I suppose that, although I certainly knew Harry’s contributions to Early American studies, my work on this later American writer intrigued him because Anderson was by no means well known outside of the groups whose concentration was crime fiction. Of course Harry never confined his interest solely to Early American topics, and because of his far-ranging view he encouraged and stimulated those whose fields were not Early American to produce first rate work, whatever their specialty.

Ben Fisher
Professor, English
University of Mississippi

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