(From Haverford College Communications)
Daniel Gillis, a member of the classics faculty for almost 40 years, died Dec. 3. He was 86.
Gillis earned his B.A. from Harvard University and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Cornell University before joining the Haverford faculty in September 1966. He was promoted to associate professor of classics in 1968 and full professor in 1976.
He taught classes on Latin language and literature, Roman social history, and other courses outside the Department of Classics, such as “Fiction of the Holocaust.” He published numerous books including two volumes on German composer and conductor Wilhelm Furtwängler–1965’s Furtwängler Recalled and 1970’s Furtwängler and America– and a collection of largely autobiographical poems, 1979’s Vita. His other books included Collaboration with the Persians (1979), Measure of a Man (1982), and Eros and Death in the Aeneid (1983). In 1992, he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquities of Scotland in recognition of his establishment of an institute for Scottish Highland Studies in Prince Edward Island.
Gillis, along with late professors Mel Santer and Seth Brody, founded the College’s annual Yiddish Culture Festival roughly a quarter of a century ago. “They wanted to get students interested in Yiddish culture, so they invited poets, and translators, and people who knew things about Eastern European culture to come and give lectures,” said Senior Lecturer of Mathematics and Statistics Jeff Tecosky-Feldman, who continues to organize the festival to this day, in a 2018 issue of Haverford magazine.
“Dan Gillis touched his friends and colleagues with his deep moral conviction,” said Tecosky-Feldman. “He was an inspiring teacher to his students.”
Gillis retired from Haverford College in December 2005, after 39 years. Since then, he worked promoting Yiddish and Jewish culture in Philadelphia and New York, including by supporting Yiddish Farm, an outdoor education center for Yiddish-speaking children that produces kosher, organic produce. He also supported students at St. Francis Xavier University and promoted Gaelic culture in Prince Edward Island.