Howard Fulweiler, right, and wife Sally

Howard Fulweiler, right, and his wife, Sally

Howard Fulweiler, 86, strived to live a good life in every sense of the word, according to stories told by his friends and family.

A distinguished MU English professor, Dr. Fulweiler didn’t view his role at the university as a job, Dennis Sentilles, MU professor emeritus of mathematics and a close friend, said.

Instead, teaching allowed Dr. Fulweiler to live the life he wanted to live: “a life of books, time to contemplate, time to write a poem to his wife every birthday for her (and) time to be a father to four children,” Sentilles said.

“Howard had as complete of a life as a person could have, in so many ways,” he said.

Dr. Fulweiler died Dec. 28, 2018, in his home, surrounded by his family.

He was born Aug. 26, 1932, in Media, Pennsylvania but moved with his family to Yankton, South Dakota, where he grew up, after his father’s death when he was 3 years old.

During high school, Dr. Fulweiler attended an Episcopalian all-boys school in Connecticut on a scholarship. However, after spending four years on the East Coast, he decided to return to South Dakota to attend college.

While at the University of South Dakota, he studied English, participated in ROTC and met his wife, Sally Nichols. The two fell in love while working one summer at the Black Hills Playhouse and later married in 1953.

Dr. Fulweiler and his wife celebrated 65 years of marriage just two days before his death.

The year after he was married, Dr. Fulweiler graduated with his bachelor’s degree in English and then moved to Germany, where he served three years in the U.S. Army.

“He was very proud of his military service, even though he was anything but a militarist,” Sentilles said.

Dr. Fulweiler returned to the U.S. in 1956 and continued his education at the University of South Dakota, receiving his master’s degree in English Literature in 1957 there followed by his doctoral degree in English Literature in 1960 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Fulweiler accepted a position at MU as an assistant professor in the English Department in 1960 — his first and only job. He stayed at MU for 40 years, during which he was the chair of the English Department, director of Graduate Studies and professor emeritus of English.

Over the course of his teaching career, Dr. Fulweiler won the Purple Chalk Award, a MU award recognizing exemplary teaching, and the Byler Distinguished Faculty Award.

Dr. Fulweiler wrote many essays during his time at MU on various topics, including poetry, 19th-century fiction, culture and scientific history, according to the MU English Department’s website. He also published two books, titled “Letters from the Darkling Plain: Language and the Grounds of Knowledge in the Poetry of Arnold and Hopkins” and “Here a Captive Heart Busted: The Sentimental Journey of Modern Literature”.

“He was a wonderful teacher,” Mary Swank, Dr. Fulweiler’s daughter, said.

“(He was) admired by his students, too,” Sentilles said. “I know several students of his that could never say enough good things about him.”

Sentilles met Dr. Fulweiler while playing tennis on MU’s campus in 1978, which led to a close friendship that would continue for 40 years.

“I saw him out there playing tennis, and it was about 35 degrees,” Sentilles said. “And I thought, ‘I’ve gotta meet that guy. He looks like he wants to play as badly as I do.’”

He credits his decadeslong friendship with Dr. Fulweiler to his friend’s overall character.

“Howard was one of the most deeply trustworthy people I’ve ever known. I knew I could trust every penny I had with him. I never doubted that … , but I came to feel I could trust my soul with him, that I could be as much myself as I cared to be, and he was gonna deal with it and probably turn it into something better,” he said.

When he retired from teaching at MU in 2000, Dr. Fulweiler spent his time voluntarily teaching at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Columbia. There, he created and taught classes on a variety of English literature topics.

His classes were almost always full, Swank said.

Dr. Fulweiler was a lifelong Episcopalian, and religion was an important aspect in his life.

The one thing he wanted out of life was to know God, John Fulweiler, Dr. Fulweiler’s son, said at the funeral, according to Swank.

“He inserted God into everything he did, and not in a fundamentalist way, but in a really highly intellectual way,” Swank said.

Much of his poetry included religious themes. After retiring, he compiled a book of religious poems that he wrote to accompany special occasions at his church during the year.

Dr. Fulweiler was a beloved member of Calvary Episcopal Church in Columbia for almost 60 years, where he served as lay reader, vestry member and senior warden multiple times.

“He was really, to me, one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever known, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget him,” Sentilles said.

  • Photo editor and senior photojournalism student. Send me story ideas and tips at emilynevils@mail.missouri.edu.

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