Dante Thomas, SUNY Geneseo Professor Emeritus of English, died at his home in Geneseo last Thursday, surrounded by family. He was 91.
Those of us who arrived in the English department before the early 1990’s knew Dante as an insatiable reader and book-collector with an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s literatures and a special passion for discovering great writers ignored or forgotten by the majority of scholars.
Dante shared not only his passion for books but the books themselves, taking special delight in finding attractive editions tied to various colleagues’ interests, and simply giving them away. My own shelves include a number of volumes by Dickens, Conrad, and others that turned up at different times in my mailbox with a friendly note from Dante, or that he stopped by my office to deliver, together with an amusing or illuminating literary anecdote or two that I had never heard before.
Dante was a talented photographer, and after his retirement, with characteristic generosity, he offered to take individual portraits of the entire department. For many years these portraits lined the wall outside the main department office in Welles; they finally came down only because time hadn’t been as kind to his subjects as it had been to his art.
Soft-spoken, unassuming, gentle, and generous, Dante was a much-loved teacher and a wonderful colleague. His passing is a great loss.
There will be calling hours Friday, November 8, 2013 from 4-7 PM at the Rector-Hicks Funeral Home, 111 Main St. in Geneseo. The interment will be at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Geneseo.
If you’d like to share a memory of Dante, you can add one to his page on the Rector-Hicks website.
In lieu of flowers, Dante’s family asks that memorials be made in the form of book donations to Goodwill, 4119 Lakeville Rd. in Geneseo or Literacy Volunteers of America – Livingston County, 27 Lackawanna Ave., Mount Morris, NY 14510.
— Paul Schacht, Department Chair