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ASU remembers literature scholar 'Skip' Brack, Jr.

November 15, 2012

University celebrates life of professor emeritus

ASU Professor Emeritus O M “Skip” Brack, Jr. was a man whose tireless literary contributions and good-natured spirit will long be revered. The highly skilled bibliographer passed away Nov. 8, 2012.

After teaching at the University of Iowa from 1965-73, where he directed the Iowa Center for Textual Studies, Brack headed out west to Arizona State. As a professor at ASU, Brack taught the science of bibliography. Along the way, he mentored several students, directing 36 dissertations and 27 theses to completion. Brack’s students showed their appreciation when they nominated him for the ASU Alumni Association Faculty Achievement Award in 1991, and the ASU Graduate College Outstanding Mentor Award in 2000.

“When I chaired the English department, Skip was one of our most prolific and respected international scholars,” said fellow ASU professor, Neal Lester. “He was also an excellent department colleague and professional citizen. I will always remember his steadfast support of my leadership as chair and later as dean. Many will miss his great stories and his robust energy.”

Brack was the founding editor responsible for the “Works of Tobias Smollett,” University of Georgia Press, and served as textual editor for that edition, critically editing several of the texts. He also edited a collection of essays on Smollett that included an essay written by Brack himself, in which he clearly establishes Smollett’s authorship of “The Memoirs of a Lady of Quality” for the first time. He has written an additional ten essays on Smollett, as well as essays on other aspects of eighteenth-century literature, bibliography, and textual criticism.

An authority on the life and writings of Samuel Johnson, in 2009 Brack was honored by being asked to arrange and curate an exhibition, “Samuel Johnson, Professional Author,” for the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino, California to celebrate the tercentenary of Johnson’s birth. Besides providing an introduction and historical annotations for the first full-length biography of Johnson, Sir John Hawkins' "The Life of Samuel Johnson," Brack has also written more than thirty essays on him for scholarly journals or for keepsakes for The Johnsonians and the Samuel Johnson Society of Southern California.

A natural collaborator who enjoyed the fellowship involved in working with others, Brack partnered with several colleagues over the years to publish works like volumes 5 and 6 of The Piozzi Letters, with Edward and Lillian Bloom, and the final volumes of the Yale Edition of Samuel Johnson, with Robert DeMaria, Jr.

Called “Skipper” by his parents to differentiate him from his father who was also named O M, Brack was known as “Skip” to his many friends and associates in his adult years. He received his bachelor’s degree from Baylor University in 1960 and later, a doctorate from the University of Texas, Austin.

In addition to hundreds of colleagues and students, Brack is survived by his wife Cynthia, his son Matthew, his grandson Jakob, his brother Richard, and his nieces and nephews. A memorial mass, officiated by the Reverend Canon Mark Sutherland, will be held at 11 a.m., Nov. 17, at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, 100 West Roosevelt, Phoenix.

Memorial donations may be sent to The Huntington Library; Attention: Cris Lutz, Library Fund – O M “Skip” Brack, Jr.; 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA, 91108.

Emma Greguska,
ASU media relations