Richard Van Wyck Buel Jr., Professor of History, Emeritus, Dies at 90

Editorial StaffDecember 1, 20233min
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Richard (“Dick”) Van Wyck Buel Jr, Professor of History, Emeritus, passed away on November 22 at the age of 90.

Dick received his AB from Amherst College and his AM and PhD from Harvard University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1962, where he taught American history until his retirement in 2002. During those years he published six books, including In Irons (Yale University Press, 1998), a macroeconomic history of the American Revolution, and for 22 years he served as associate editor of History and Theory. After his retirement, Dick remained involved at Wesleyan in the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty, and he taught a course on American intellectual history for students in Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education.

“I met Dick when I was just starting at Wesleyan,” recalled Jeffers Lennox, associate professor of history, “and he graciously asked me to work on a project with him. We were from different generations, but Dick quickly used that to find ways that we could laugh at ourselves. He invited my wife and me out for lunch several times and was as comfortable talking about history as he was about art or any other subject. I found him to be delightfully curmudgeonly. He’d scoff or wave his hand at an idea or argument that he felt didn’t pass muster, but he never made me feel out of place and, in fact, was always very welcoming. As someone new to the school (and the country), Dick made me feel welcome and I’m so grateful that I got to know him.”

Bill Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History, remarked that “Dick Buel was a consummate historian, unwavering supporter of Wesleyan and especially the History Department, and a warm and caring friend to many. Through his leadership activities in state historical organizations, he contributed greatly to our understanding of Connecticut’s early history. He will be greatly missed.”

Dick is survived by his daughter, Margaret, her husband, John Coppens, and two granddaughters, Alexandra Joy Callahan and Riley Elizabeth Callahan; his step-daughter, Elizabeth Frankel, her husband, Donald T. Rave III, and their son, Haskel Patrick Rave; and his companion, Kay Knight Clarke. Memorial donations can be made to the Essex Meadows Scholarship Foundation at 30 Bokum Road, Essex, CT, 06426. His memorial service will be held at First Congregational Church of Old Lyme on January 15, 2024 at 11 a.m.