April 18, 2006

Kolb, U of C English literature scholar, dead at 86

Gwin J. Kolb, a prominent authority on Samuel Johnson and 18th-century English literature, and distinguished member of the University of Chicago faculty, died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease on Monday, April 3 at the age of 86.

He worked at the University for 50 years as a scholar, teacher, and administrator.

Born in 1919, the Aberdeen, Mississippi native graduated in 1941 from Millsaps College in Jacksonville, Mississippi before serving as an ensign in the Navy from 1942 to 1945.

Following World War II, Kolb received his master’s degree in 1946 and his doctoral degree in 1949, both from the U of C. Kolb continued his relationship with the University as a professor in English and later the department chairman, where he remained until 1989.

Kolb was awarded the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching by the University in 1955 and was a Guggenheim Fellow from 1956 to 1957. He also authored or edited nine books, six of which focused on Samuel Johnson.

Noted for his avid book collecting, Kolb served on the committee of the T. Kimball Brooker Prize for Undergraduate Book Collecting. His own personal collection now resides in the University’s Special Collections Research Center.

His colleague David Bevington remembers him as “patient, gentle, always there, supportive, understanding, efficient.”

“He gave his whole adult life to the University of Chicago,” Bevington added.

Kolb is survived by Ruth Godbold Kolb, his wife of 62 years; his son Jack Kolb; his daughter Alma Dean Kolb; and two granddaughters.