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Prince Edward Island

Donald Rackin, retired Temple professor and award-winning author, has died at 89

Donald Rackin, 89, of Philadelphia, retired professor of English at Temple University, scholar of Victorian literature and award-winning author, died of Parkinson’s disease at his home in Roxborough on Wednesday, November 23.

Professor Rackin taught English literature at Temple for 33 years and was known among students, colleagues and staff for his innovative ideas, endearing personality and dedication to science. Many students credited him with their post-college success, and peers called him a “professional father,” an “exemplary advisor,” and an “extremely supportive mentor.”

Constantly seeking ways to improve the educational experience for both students and teachers, he founded and directed Temple’s Teaching Improvement Center and Senior Mentoring Service, which recruited retired professors as mentors and matched them with younger teachers. “We mate them and leave them alone,” Professor Rackin told The New York Times in 1991, referring to the Senior Mentoring Service.

“Everyone has an ‘impostor’ syndrome, that they’re not as good as they seem and they don’t want anyone to know their secrets,” he said of younger professors. “The great thing is that the mentors are no longer professors and no longer vote for employment, salary or promotion.”

He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Temple Association of University Professionals, and a union colleague called him “an ardent advocate for the faculty at Temple and elsewhere.” In a tribute, a friend said Professor Rackin was “a successful academic who knew how to have fun, someone who values ​​people above all else”.

Professor Rackin wrote poetry and short stories throughout his life. He published and reviewed articles and essays on Victorian literature and other subjects, was an expert on the English author Lewis Carroll, and edited many publications including Temple’s Faculty Herald and Academe, the journal of the American Association of University Professors.

He has written books about Carroll’s work, including the 1991s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass: Nonsense, Sense and Meaning, and won the Modern Language Association’s 1967 William Riley Parker Prize for his essay Alice’s Journey to the End of Night. He also lectured on Carroll and other English literature across the country, in England, Israel and elsewhere around the world, and appeared on radio and television programs.

In 1982, Marshall Ledger of the Pennsylvania Gazette reviewed the University of Pennsylvania Lewis Carroll, A Celebration for The Inquirer, saying Professor Rackin’s essay in the book “stands almost alone in seeing Carroll broadly. He doesn’t demean or ignore the comedy, but sees it as a crucial part of Carroll’s disillusioned view of the world and the cosmic order.”

Professor Rackin served on the board of directors of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America, and its members said in a tribute: “Don was a warm, gentle soul with a wild intellect that always lurked behind his wonderful sense of humor.”

Donald Rackin was born on February 24, 1933 in Newark, NJ. He graduated from West Side High School, spent three years at New York University, and graduated from Rutgers University in 1954 with a bachelor’s degree in English. He earned a master’s degree in English from Columbia University in 1955, taught for a number of years at Auburn University, and received his PhD in English from the University of Illinois in 1964.

He moved to Philadelphia to teach at Temple in 1962 and retired in 1995.

Professor Rackin met Phyllis Finkelstein in Bradley Beach, New Jersey and she was impressed by his interest in books, art and music. They married in 1954, had daughters Rebecca and Ethel, and lived in West Philadelphia, Germantown, and Roxborough.

He volunteered with the Greater Philadelphia Coalition against Hunger and the Coming of Age Seniors Program, supported civil and women’s rights, and opposed nuclear proliferation and war. He told The Inquirer at a 2003 candlelight vigil to protest the war in Iraq: “We’re here because war is a terrible, stupid idea.”

After retiring, he took a Yiddish course and loved the poem “God’s Grandeur” by Gerard Manley Hopkins and the song “Morning Has Broken” by Cat Stevens. “Don had a brilliant mind and a clear mind,” his family said in a tribute. “But those who knew him valued him mostly for his warm heart and generous spirit.”

He was good at carpentry, cooking, painting, and photography, and was the top jitterbug dancer in his high school class. He enjoyed fishing and sailing, and spent idyllic summers on Prince Edward Island in Canada.

“He was brilliant and creative,” said his wife. “He exuded a warmth and kindness that people could feel.”

In addition to his wife and daughters, Professor Rackin is survived by a grandson and other relatives. Before that, two brothers died.

A celebration of his life will be held Sunday, April 23 at 1 p.m. at the Laurel Hill Funeral Home, 225 Belmont Ave., Bala Cynwyd, Pa. 19004, instead.

Donations on his behalf may be made to The Parkinson’s Foundation, 200 SE 1st St., Suite 800, Miami, Florida 33131 and the Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger, 123 Chestnut St., Suite 401, Philadelphia, Pa. 19106.

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