William Rosenfeld P’82,’84, who came to College Hill as a member of the Kirkland College faculty and later served Hamilton as the Marjorie and Robert W. McEwen Professor of English, died on May 14, 2023. He was 97.
Born on Jan. 2, 1926, in Cleveland, Ohio, Rosenfeld served his country in the U.S. Navy during World War II before continuing his education. He received his bachelor’s degree from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1951 and his master’s degree (1954) and Ph.D. (1961) from the University of Minnesota.
Along the way, on Sept. 11, 1955, he married Irma Radest, a fellow teacher and writer with whom he would collaborate on translations of Macedonian folktales. The couple also raised three children, including Daniel Rosenfeld ’82 and Andrew Rosenfeld ’84.
Rosenfeld taught at the University of Maine, Wilmington College, Central Michigan University, and Baldwin-Wallace College prior to arriving on College Hill in 1969 as an associate professor of creative writing at Kirkland College. He served as chair of the Arts Division at Kirkland from 1972 to 1975, before pursuing an opportunity as a Fulbright lecturer in Yugoslavia.
After returning to the U.S., he joined the Hamilton faculty in 1978 as professor of English. A versatile teacher and accomplished writer, he brought courses in creative writing to the newly coeducational Hamilton enabling the English Department to offer a concentration in writing for the first time. In 1991, Rosenfeld was named to the McEwen chair in recognition of his “great and continuing contributions to the College as teacher, scholar, and colleague.”
Rosenfeld’s scholarship was described as “strong, continuous, and of high quality.” In addition to numerous published works ranging from poetry to novels to literary criticism, he is the author of the 2013 biography Garibaldi: and Rio Grande do Sul’s War of Independence from Brazil; The Memoirs of Luigi Rossetti, John Griggs, and Anita Garibaldi. He also edited My Window Is a Line, an annual anthology of works by writers residing in retirement homes.
As a former student noted in a published obituary, “Bill Rosenfeld was the rarest of teachers who gave far more to his students than he could have imagined. He not only helped us become better writers but better, stronger people. This world is not as kind, not as hopeful without him.”
In the years prior to his retirement in 1996, Rosenfeld organized and conducted an annual intercollegiate reading series at the College. The William Rosenfeld Chapbook Prize in Creative Writing was established in his honor.
William Rosenfeld is survived by his wife, three children, three grandsons, and a great-grandson.