Thomas Moser, professor emeritus of English, dies at 92

July 2, 2016, 9:40 p.m.

Thomas Moser, English professor emeritus and former chair of the Stanford English department, died on June 9, 2016 from complications of pneumonia. He passed away at his home on the Stanford campus at the age of 92.


He is remembered as an enthusiastic and generous colleague, teacher and scholar.

Moser was born in Connersville, Pennsylvania to Oliver Perry Moser and Anna Mary Holborn, according to Stanford News Service. He graduated from Dormont High School and studied engineering for a year at the University of Pittsburgh. He was subsequently drafted into the army, where he served a three-year tour of duty as an electrical engineer. After the war, he attended Harvard University and earned a Ph.D. in English in 1955. He taught briefly at Wellesley College before accepting a position at Stanford in 1956.

Moser served as the director of freshman English from 1959 to 1962 and later as the English department chair between 1963 and 1968.

Moser helped the English department grow and adapt during a time of social upheaval by hiring women as faculty members and urging Stanford to establish global campuses in Europe.

“Tom was an extraordinarily generous man,” said Elizabeth Traugott, professor emerita of linguistics and English, who was a lecturer during the time Moser served as department chair. “He was a mentor to me as a woman in academia when there were only a few of us.”

In addition to his progressive leadership, Moser was a renowned literary scholar. He was an expert on Joseph Conrad and Ford Madox Ford, leaders of early 20th century British literature. Moser’s publications were a mix of literary criticism and psychological biography, exemplified by his publication “Joseph Conrad: Achievement and Decline” (1957), in which he analyzes Conrad’s peak literary output. Moser also published “The Life in the Fiction of Ford Madox Ford(1980), as well as scholarly editions of Ford’s “The Good Soldier” (1915), Conrad’s “Lord Jim” (1900), and Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”(1847).

Moser gained fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies in 1963 and the Guggenheim Foundation in 1979. In 2002, the Joseph Conrad Society of America awarded him the Ian P. Watt award, its highest distinction. A U.S.-based Conrad journal, Conradiana, has announced an upcoming issue in Moser’s memory.

“All who knew him came to trust and rely on his unfailing loyalty and honesty, his deeply caring heart, his compassionate understanding,” said fellow Professor Emeritus of English Albert Gelpi.

Moser is survived by Joyce Penn, his wife of 30 years, a son and a daughter from his first marriage to Mary Churchill Small and three grandchildren. A memorial service for Moser will be held in the fall.


Contact Tanushri Sundar at tanushrisundar ‘at’

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