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Spring 2001
The Last Man of Letters
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For more than 30 years at UCLA, John Espey's wise and gentle spirit encouraged his students-and everyone else he touched-to stretch beyond themselves.
By Clara Sturak '91

(John Espey, the young Rhodes Scholar at Oxford's Merton College (left), and taking a breather in the chair usually reserved for students in his UCLA office. )

IN Two Schools of Thought, Some Tales of Learning and Romance, the memoir he wrote with my mother, Carolyn See, John Espey recounts his quest to become a Rhodes Scholar. In it, he tells of his initial discouragement after reading the seemingly impossible requirements that Cecil John Rhodes had expected scholars to show: a) literary and scholastic ability and attainments; b) qualities of manhood, truth, courage, devotion to duty, sympathy, kindliness, unselfishness and fellowship; c) exhibition of moral force of character and of instincts to lead and to take an interest in his fellows; d) physical vigor, as shown by fondness for and success in sports.

While he may have had some legitimate fears about "physical vigor," being tall, skinny, asthmatic and tubercular, he had no need to worry about the others - which may well have been written to describe him. He was a Scholar with a capital S, one of the first to take on the bizarre and difficult mind of Ezra Pound in the seminal critical work, Ezra Pound's Mauberley. His works included six books of memoirs, three novels, scholarly papers on George Eliot and Oscar Wilde, a bibliography of American decorative book-cover art, a children's book and even a volume of satirical haiku. At the time of his death in September at the age of 87, he was working on a bibliography of little-known American publisher Stone & Kimball.

John taught in the English Department at UCLA for more than 30 years, becoming an emeritus in 1978, and was a legend - for his funny and inspiring classes and his genuine interest in, and care of, his students. He came into my life in 1974 and became "my other dad." I was his "other daughter."


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