Professor Elizabeth Oggel, who taught English at IWU from 1945-1969, died on January 22, 2010 at the age of 105 . . . just a month short of her 106th birthday. A former student of hers, Dr. Larry K. Uffelman, Professor Emeritus of English at Mansfield University, voiced sentiments that are no doubt shared by Professor Oggel’s former students. “Elizabeth was one of a kind,” wrote Uffelman, who returned to Bloomington for Professor Oggel’s 100th birthday party and led all of her former students in a recitation of the opening lines of The Canterbury Tales.
“Probably every student who took the Survey of English Literature from Elizabeth remembers entering her office to recite to her two carefully memorized ‘chunks’ of poetry: the opening fourteen lines of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English and, later, a Shakespearean sonnet of our choosing.
“Elizabeth taught us to read poetry closely and with great care,” Uffelman wrote. “Over the years, I’ve known many excellent professors—even trying to be one myself—but I’m not exaggerating when I say that Elizabeth’s teaching, her critical rigor and her concern for her students’ learning, was exceptional. When I graduated and eventually began my own career as an English professor, she was one of my models.
“A common thread that runs through advertisements for colleges and universities is that they ‘strive for excellence.’ Elizabeth Oggel was excellence personified,” Uffelman wrote. “We are fortunate to have been her students.” Pictured is one of the marked-up pages from Professor Oggel’s anthology of British poetry.