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Memorial Service Is June 5 for Professor Jeffrey Richards

A memorial service for Jeffrey H. Richards, professor and eminent scholar of English, will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 5, at Royster Memorial Presbyterian Church, 6901 Newport Ave., Norfolk.

Richards, a member of the Old Dominion faculty since 1992, died Monday, May 30, 2011, at age 62 after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. He was born Dec. 4, 1948, in Libertyville, Ill., to Fenton Omar and Betty Quantz Richards, both deceased.

Dana Heller, professor and chair of the English department, announced the news of Richards' death to colleagues in the department. Calling Richards "a cherished teacher and mentor, and a noble, compassionate man," Heller added, "The loss to our department - and to the college and university - is incalculable and will take some time to absorb."

Charles Wilson, acting dean of the College of Arts and Letters, called Richards a "mentor, gentleman and friend," saying that he will be greatly missed. "While we mourn this loss to our community, our thoughts are with Jeff's wife, Dr. Stephanie Sugioka, also an ODU faculty member, and Jeff's children, Sarah and Aaron," Wilson said.

Richards was a loving brother, husband and father, and a beloved mentor to both students and faculty at the university. A gentle, noble and compassionate man, he treated the people and the world around him with deep care and respect; he valued justice and deplored pettiness. He loved spending time outdoors gardening and hiking. He strove to live a simple life, devoting his time to what was most important to him-his family, his teaching, and his writing.

Richards served two terms as chair of the English department, and taught early and 19th-century American literature and American drama.

His many published books and articles contributed substantially to the scholarship in his field. He was the author of "Drama, Theatre, and Identity in the American New Republic" (Cambridge University Press, 2005), "Mercy Otis Warren" (Twayne/Simon and Schuster, 1995) and "Theater Enough: American Culture and the Metaphor of the World Stage, 1607-1789" (Duke University Press, 1991).

Richards also was editor of the following books: "Mimic LIfe; or, Before and Behind the Curtain" by Anna Cora Mowatt (Copley, 2001), "Eugene O'Neill: Early Plays" (Penguin, 2001) and "Early American Drama" (Penguin, 1997). In addition, he published numerous articles on early American literature.

Before joining the ODU faculty, Richards held teaching positions at Duke University, North Carolina State University, UNC-Chapel Hill, Lakeland College and Beijing Normal University.

A 1971 graduate of Yale University, where he earned a bachelor's degree in English, Richards received a doctorate in American literature, drama from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1982.

He is survived by his wife of 33 years, Stephanie Kay Sugioka; his two children, Aaron Nicholas and Sarah Grace Richards; and his three sisters, Suzanne Richards Uczen, Sally Ann Anderson and Polly Ann Rotunda, and their families.

This article was posted on: May 26, 2011

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