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Dr. Robert Stevick, 1928-2018


Dr Robert Stevick, reclining in his chair.

Witan Publishing is saddened to announce the passing of one of our most beloved authors, Robert Stevick. A Professor Emeritus of the University of Washington, Stevick authored nearly a hundred publications of every type. He was a pioneer in medieval scholarly epublishing.

In honor of Robert Stevick, and in accordance with his wishes, Witan Publishing will make his book Insular Art Forms: Their Essence and Construction available free-of-charge through the University of Washington’s ResearchWorks online database soon. The accompanying video illustrations and printable supplementary materials can be found here on Witan Publishing’s website.

We offer our deepest condolences to his family, from his colleagues here at Witan Publishing.

The following full obituary is provided on behalf of Dr Stevick’s family.

Robert Stevick relished a good mystery, especially one more than a millennium old.

To appreciate the joy he took in his research was to wander into his study and see him with compass in hand, straight edge at the ready and Bach playing in the background.

It was to be his traveling companion to Trinity College in Dublin or the British Museum or to hear him say that a colleague’s presentation at a conference was first rate.

It was to be a child at the kitchen table, soaking in dinner-time stories of Beowulf and Grendel by candle light. Decades later, it was to listen to him explain in layman’s terms his observations from the Book of Kells or the Lindisfarne Gospels.      

For Stevick, each Old English manuscript offered an investigation best solved with geometry, a feature found widely in Anglo Saxon verse texts, Irish sculptured crosses and metalwork, particularly elaborate brooches.

To bring to light the ingenuity of monks and artisans from so long ago intrigued him to the end. Stevick taught English (the older, the better) full-time at the University of Washington until he was 70 and part time until he was 75. Fifteen years later, he could still be found hunched over at the desk in his study immersed in research, still publishing papers and, well past his 89th birthday, still presenting at conferences. 

Stevick died September 27th 2018 at the age of 90.

From the time he was a young professor to well after adding emeritus to his title, he looked forward to making trips to Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the chance to learn from others involved with the International Congress of Medieval Studies.

Stevick was born in Iowa, grew up in Missouri and earned his doctorate from the University of Wisconsin after serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. Before being hired at the University of Washington, he worked at Fresno State College and the University of the West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. He also spent a year at Sydney University in Australia while on a sabbatical and for a few years served as chairman of the English department at the University of Washington.

A month before Stevick’s death, his son received a letter through the mail asking if he happened to be related to the UW English professor. The letter was from a former student from nearly three decades earlier. It shared fond memories of Stevick’s classes.

“Professor Stevick wanted to avail us of his intelligence and formidable study and research, but something was happening in that class that was stimulating and unusual, unfolding in real time, not like traditional learning by rote, lecturer and lectured,” the former student wrote. “All were welcome participants and benefactors. We probably had a textbook but I don’t remember using it much.”

Stevick did write textbooks and other works, both by himself and with others. Together, they span nearly six decades and can fill a cardboard box weighing nearly 40 pounds. There were early works in composition and exposition, his mid-career focus on Old English and his most recent fascination with the earliest Irish and English book arts.

Stevick is survived by Glorene, his wife of 66 years, as well as his two children, Lisa Carlson of Moscow,Idaho, and Eric Stevick of Marysville, Washington. He had four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

His trusty compass still sits on the desk in his study. 

Dr Stevick, seated at a table with a large manuscript before him.