John Thomas Bartle
Associate Professor of Russian Languages and Literatures (1989-2022)
Presented: Sept. 6, 2022, by Frank Sciacca, associate professor of Russian languages and literatures emeritus
Our dear friend and colleague John Bartle passed away unexpectedly at home on June 10, 2022. John was born in St. Paul, Neb., in 1961. During his junior year of high school, he studied abroad in Denmark, a first significant step in his embrace of the study of foreign languages, cultures, and literatures. John received his bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and his master’s degree and Ph.D. in Slavic languages and literatures from Indiana University, with Nina Perlina as his mentor.
John’s academic career at Hamilton began in 1989. He rose to the rank of associate professor of Russian languages and literatures and served many years as chair of the Department of German and Russian (now German-Russian-Italian-Arabic) and of English for Speakers of Other Languages, as well as director of the Russian Studies Program. Among his service stints on campus, the one he was most passionate about was work with Ginny Dosch for some 20 years on the Student Fellowships Committee as a Fulbright interviewer. During his tenure at Hamilton, John became interested in the refugee population in his adopted hometown of Utica, N.Y. He served as co-director of Hamilton’s Refugee Project and collaborated with colleagues and students on production of two short films about the city’s refugee communities. He served on the boards of the Midtown Utica Community Center, the Utica Public Library, and the Ethnic Heritage Studies Center at Utica College.
John’s research interests focused primarily on the literary traditions of St. Petersburg and in particular the novels of Dostoevsky, concerning which he published numerous articles. He served as the book review editor for the Slavic and East European Journal for nearly 20 years.
The lasting legacy John leaves is the impact he had on generations of Hamilton students. He displayed true passion for Russian literature and film. His courses “Madness, Murder, and Mayhem: 19th-Century Russian Literature” and “Dreams, Visions, and Nightmares: Introduction to Russian Film” were perennial favorites among the students, always over-enrolled. John loved teaching and the animated life of his classroom.
Earlier this summer the Russian Studies program held an open mic memorial gathering in John’s honor on Zoom and in person for former students. The tributes flowed with laughter and tears for over an hour. Here let’s rely on one of the many memories offered.
“Professor Bartle’s immense passion for teaching was one of many things that made his class so enjoyable. The excitement with which he delivered every single one of his lectures was so contagious that, as a student, you lose track of time and can only wish the class was a bit longer. … I remember him as compassionate, kind-hearted, and understanding. He was not just a remarkable professor but also a remarkable person.”
—Grisha Hatavets ’25
From our colleague in Government, Sharon Rivera:
“Since I had heard so much about John’s signature class on Soviet and Russian film over the years, I decided to audit it while on sabbatical. Two things in particular stood out to me … First, I remember remarking to John that I was really impressed by the energy and enthusiasm that he brought to class each day. The second thing … was the way that he would sit off to the side in the classroom, listen to students’ presentations about the films, and then dissect their comments in a polite but very probing way. He would characteristically say, ‘I’d like to push back a little on that,’ and proceed to offer a forthright critique that got right to the point but did not belittle the students in any way. That is a technique that I hope to incorporate into my teaching in the future.”
To know John was to love him — and that energy, enthusiasm, generosity of spirit. The curiosity for the things and people who interested him was palpable and memorable. His good humor and giving nature were legend, as were his notorious t-shirts.
Let me end with a beautiful tribute offered by our young colleague in German, Franzi Schweiger:
“John’s superpower was that he was not vain. … He was not preoccupied with himself and that allowed him to truly look outward. John cut through the noise of appearances in himself and others. Status and prestige did not concern him. In that sense, he preferred to fly under the radar of academia, which provided him with a different perspective: John was able to see people.
“John was a keen observer. He had a discerning eye and he paid close attention to those around him. John was present and open. He truly listened without discriminating and he held space for the people around him. … John could make the people around him feel comfortable. Around John, it did not matter what people looked like, where they came from, or where they were headed. What mattered was who they were.”
John is survived by his wife, Alison Doughtie; his daughter, Emma; and his son, Mason, together with his fiancée, Erica Andriamaherimanana.