William B. Coley, Professor of English, Emeritus, passed away on Jan. 7, at the age of 96.
Coley served in the US Army from 1942 through 1946, and then received his BA, MA, and PhD from Yale University. Arriving at Wesleyan in 1952, he taught English here for almost 40 years until he retired in 1991. Coley was a lifelong scholar, awarded fellowships by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. He published numerous books and articles, including Hogarth on High Life (with A.S. Wensinger, Wesleyan University Press, 1970), and was the guiding force behind and the executive editor of the monumental edition of novelist Henry Fielding’s work published by Oxford University Press and Wesleyan University Press over several decades.
“Bill was a challenging, scrupulous instructor of small groups and thesis writers, and an invaluable developer of curriculum for the literary studies emergent at that time,” said colleague Richard Ohmann, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, Emeritus. “He also worked to make Wesleyan a university in more than name. In particular, he was among the insurgents of the Junior Faculty Organization who drove the transformation of Wesleyan from a white, male, ‘Greek’-dominated campus into the more cosmopolitan and politically committed institution it became.”
Coley is survived by his wife, Emmy Coley; two daughters, Phyllis Coley and Katherine Coley; three stepdaughters, Soni Clubb, Mariann Clubb, and Elizabeth Clubb; his brother, Bradley Lancaster Coley; and nine grandnieces and grandnephews. The family will hold a celebration in the spring. (Please contact Sheryl Culotta for details if you are interested in attending.) Memorial contributions may be made to the Cancer Research Institute, 29 Broadway, NY 10006; or to the Sharon Audubon Society, 325 Cornwall Bridge Road, Sharon, CT 06069.