Magazine Feature / People

Love of literature prompted Twining to teach

Edward Twining didn’t have the usual resumé of a full-time professor. It boasted little published work or commitments outside the classroom, a reason his salary was “accordingly modest” compared to many of his colleagues, University records show.

“Ed was no friend of the postmodern university with its modern dialog, strategic plans, partnerships and assorted machinery,” says English Professor and friend Jan Gorak.

Instead, he was “a man very committed to the humanities, a tireless reader whose genuine modesty often prevented him giving a larger public what he gave very freely to his family, close friends and neighbors.”

Twining, a DU associate professor emeritus of English, died July 8 at the age of 78.

Twining retired in 1994 after 30 years with the University.

“My clearest memory of Ed is that he seldom published but he read widely and was the most learned man I have ever known,” says English Professor Alexandra Olsen. “I remember him relating modern discoveries in astronomy to American romantic literature, which blew everyone away.”

“He was ready to do what he thought right at the cost of his own financial or temporary departmental standing,” Gorak says. “This [couldn’t] have been easy given the University’s salary structure for many, many years. The basis for the study of literature always stood for Ed in the ability to read.”

Twining was born Sept. 14, 1930, in Buffalo, N.Y., and enlisted in the Army in 1952, serving two years.

He earned his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees from the University of Connecticut.

In the early 1960s, he moved from the East Coast and fell in love with the West and with Colorado.

“Ed and his wife, Mary Beth, were among the first to welcome Linda and me to Colorado,” English Professor Bin Ramke says. “Several times the two of them drove us — my wife Linda, my son Nic who was 7 years old and me — around various sites and sights of Colorado, Ed always complaining about how crowded it had become since he first arrived here, but nevertheless delighting in what the state had to offer.”

Although he was made offers from other universities with substantially more pay, Twining always wanted to stay in Denver.

Stuart James, a former chair of the Department of English, wrote in a 1979 evaluation for Twining that “we need more like him across the academic world” and that he excelled in small groups and not very large audiences.

“He’s tough and, at least partially, for this reason will never win the popularity contest,” James wrote.

However, his students appreciated him because he spent most of his time getting to know them rather than on his own research. He kept up on current politics, poetry, movies and fads and because of this, he was able to relate to undergraduates more often than other professors, colleagues say.

Eleanor McNees, who chaired the English department in 1993, wrote a letter requesting that Twining’s salary be increased during his final year of teaching. She wrote that while Twining “has not published much, has refused to be on committees when he opposes those committees’ philosophies [and] has often refused to direct dissertations when he feels he is not adequately qualified,” he was still deserving of compensation.

“His sometimes impractically high sense of ethics has prevented him from participating in activities most people would naturally pursue to further their careers,” she wrote.

“It is in teaching that Ed has excelled. He has devoted much of his life to that endeavor, and even now, when I hear him talk passionately about teaching, I realize at bottom that that is why many of us began our academic careers,” McNees wrote. “He feels that teaching literature is a privilege; he has great respect for literature and for the values that some literature promotes.”

Twining is survived by his wife, Mary Beth; five children and 13 grandchildren. Donations in his name may be made to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance at

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