English prof. Reichert retires after 32 years of teaching

Having served as acting President of the College and Dean of the Faculty of Williams College, professor John Reichert is retiring. The author of two books and dozens of articles on English literature, Reichert is leaving the College after 32 years of service.

A graduate of Amherst College and Stanford University, Reichert came to Williams after serving as an instructor at The Loomis School and assistant professor at the University of Michigan. During his 32-year tenure at Williams College, Reichert held various roles including English professor, chair of the English department, chair of the Japanese department, director of the Oxford Program, Dean of Faculty and acting President of the College.

“Colleagues wanted John in these key posts not only because of his fine qualities of mind and gift for working effectively with many different kinds of people, but also because of his capacity for affection and his much-trusted sense of justice,” said Lawrence Graver, professor of English.

Reichert is described by many colleagues as a wonderful person and friend, in addition to a inspiring professor. “He is one of the finest people I have ever met,” said Stephen Fix, professor of English. “He is a great mind. As a literary scholar and critic, he is wonderfully attuned. He is a profoundly decent person – his integrity, his grace, his considerateness for other people.”

Reichert was Dean of the Faculty from 1984-1991, during which he served as acting president of the college while President Francis Oakley took a spring sabbatical in 1991. As Dean of Faculty, Reichert carried the faculty through several periods of change.

“As Dean of Faculty during the crucial years when we became more diverse both as a faculty and a student body, he set a tone of intellectual curiosity and honesty,” said Steven Gerrard, associate dean of faculty. “In many ways the present dynamic climate of Williams is due to the work that John Reichert did.”

“One of the real opportunities he had was to expand the college faculty in part to accompany new programs in the college and expand fields that hadn’t been offered at all,” said Fix. “John was central to that and his creativity and judgment was central to that role.”

Reichert specializes in British Renaissance literature, although he also taught English courses on Shakespeare, Milton and literary criticism. He has published two books, Making Sense of Literature and Milton’s Wisdom: Nature and Scripture in Paradise Lost. “The title of John Reichert’s first, much-admired book, Making Sense of Literature, offers a clue to why he has often been called one of the truly indispensable people at Williams over the past thirty years,” said Graver.

“Not only did he make sense of stubborn problems of literary interpretation inside and outside the classroom, but, as dean of the faculty, chair of the English department and director of the Oxford Program, he brought his probing intelligence, wry sense of humor and warm receptivity to the needs and aspirations of others to vital matters of faculty governance, major curricular change and community relationships.”Reichert has been on sabbatical for the past two years.