Yale University

In Memoriam

Bryan Short


Bryan Short
1964 graduation

Northern Arizona University website

December 26, 2003

Professor of English and special assistant to the president of Northern Arizona University, Bryan's professional life was shaped and honed in the NAU community. He was a friend, a colleague, a teacher and a mentor to many of us. He also was an administrator of multiple talents and great effect, and a scholar and participant in the profession. And, of course, Bryan was an outstanding citizen of NAU.

Bryan received his B.A. from Yale in 1964, and he earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University. His dissertation was on Herman Melville's poetry, and he became a well-known and respected Melville scholar in his academic career. Most recently, as the treasurer of the Melville Society, he worked to provide a forum in which scholars, students and readers alike could celebrate the great American writer.

Bryan served at NAU for 36 years, beginning in 1967 as an assistant professor of English. He earned tenure and a promotion to associate professor in 1971, and directed the English Composition program from 1971 to 1980. In 1980, he assumed the position of department chair and was promoted to full professor. In 2000, he was named executive director of the Academic Chairs Council, where he brought new leadership and participation in university governance to department chairs. Bryan was selected to serve as special assistant to NAU's president in May 2003.

During his career at NAU, Bryan returned to Yale twice as a visiting fellow in English: as a Newberry Library Fellow, and as a postdoctoral fellow in Comparative Literature. Bryan's long and very distinguished career as a teacher and scholar in the English Department at NAU was exemplary: his colleagues honored him with both the Faculty Mentor Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award. He was also recognized by the Honors Program as one of the best teachers on campus, and was presented with the prestigious NAU President's Award.

Bryan married Frances Sibal in 1966, and their first child, Ray Collier, was born in 1967; Lisa Marie was born in 1973. Frances died of breast cancer in 1993. On New Year's Day in 1996, Bryan married Valeen Avery, professor of history at NAU. Their marriage and new life, with Bryan's two children and Val's four children — Nathan, Christopher, Thad and Maureen — filled them both with adventure and joy.

Dean of the College of Arts and Humanities Susan Fitzmaurice recalls, "I am the last of many chairs of English that Bryan trained, mentored, advised and guided through the mysteries of academic middle management. He called me "boss," entirely affectionately but always with his tongue tucked in his cheek. Nobody was Bryan's boss. He was a mentor of new faculty, new chairs and even new deans. He was very generous with his time, experience and perspective on administration and scholarship alike. Politically astute and extraordinarily persuasive, Bryan shaped the careers of many people at NAU. He was intimately concerned for and deeply interested in his colleagues, students and friends. Bryan had the most uncommon gift of seeing each of us as an individual; not an individual according to his own ideas of us, but an individual comparable with no other individual."

A former student, Danny Robins, writes: "Dr. Short's teaching — his enthusiasm for poetry and American literature, his energy, his sense of humor, his perceptive comments about the books we read and my early efforts at literary analysis — woke me up. He introduced me to a richly imaginative world that continues to fascinate and inspire."

At Bryan's memorial service in January 2004, the NAU community celebrated Bryan's enthusiasm, extraordinary political sense about people and about issues, as well as his energy and spirit. He was, in President John Haeger's words, truly the author of what has moved the institution forward over the past few years, and "an NAU original."