In Memoriam: Nat Hart

Nat Hart was a longtime ASLE member, and he will be greatly missed by our community.

Obituary from the Morris Sun Tribune:

Nathaniel Hart, professor emeritus and early faculty member at the University of Minnesota, Morris died peacefully on January 16 at West Wind Village, Morris, Minnesota. Born March 4, 1930, he was 86.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, to David and Ruth Hart, Nathaniel centered his life on his love of English literature and in service to the principles of the academy. In 1952, he earned a BA in English from Tulane University and in 1954, an MA in English from the University of Connecticut. He enlisted in the Army, serving in Germany, and with an honorable discharge, matriculated to the University of Minnesota, earning his Ph.D. in 1968 with a focus on Victorian literature and Browning studies.

While still a graduate student, Nathaniel was recruited in 1961 to join the English faculty at the newly formed University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM). This new academy was an optimistic project, born from a local grassroots effort to extend the land-grant mission of the university system to a small, affordable, and accessible liberal arts college.

Nathaniel joined the faculty in the second year of UMM’s founding, and remained for 40 years, until his retirement in 2001. In addition to his faculty post in the department of English, his years at Morris included service as coordinator of College Writing (1968-1970), coordinator of the English discipline (1971-1972 and 1977-1980), Chair of the Division of the Humanities (1980-1985), and Director of the Faculty Center for Learning and Teaching (1994-1997).

In an essay about the early days at the institution he wrote: “Building a college from the ground up is a consuming experience, but it was loads of fun, too. We thought of ourselves not as institution builders, but as teachers and scholars. What made Morris special from the very beginning were the studentsand the utter joy of providing for them what they might not otherwise have experienced. These were dedicated, serious, hard-working students, eager for their education. They had unswerving confidence in our ability to give them the very best. We worked hard to live up to their expectations.”

His specialty was Victorian literature, but Nathaniel read widely. He was an early champion of expanding the literary canon to include voices outside the mainstream perspective, and he was active in several efforts to increase diversity and multiculturalism, both on campus and in the classroom.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Nathaniel built a homestead with his then-wife, the poet Joanne Hart, and his children, on a remote locale on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation. The younger of his eight children were raised there in cabins he built by hand. He was also an active member of the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor Party in the Morris area, serving as a strong and persistent voice for progressive policies.

After he retired from teaching, Nathaniel and his partner Vicki Graham built a summer writing retreat on the Elk River in Oregon.  Deeply committed to protecting and restoring the environment, Nathaniel gave papers at ASLE, wrote a column for the Morris, MN, newspaper titled “On This Earth,” sent letters to congress, and spoke out at public hearings on land use planning in Southern Oregon.

Nathaniel is preceded in death by his mother and father, and his sister Natalie Lipkin-Amir. He is survived by his partner Vicki Graham, his sister Fran Tiger and brother Harold Hart, and his children, John, Thomas, Marya, Naomi, Agnes, Natalie, David, and Joseph, as well as numerous grand- and great-grandchildren.