by Len Lear
When I was an undergraduate at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, an English teacher, Dr. Harold Stenger was a legendary teacher of Shakespeare plays. He played all the roles, including the female characters, with different accents and unbridled passion. Even students who had no interest in Shakespeare – accounting, chemistry and sociology majors – fought to get into his classes and were crushed when they were rejected because classes filled up so quickly.
When I heard last week from Hugh H. Grady Jr., a resident of Wyndmoor for 19 years (and Germantown for 18 years before that), I couldn’t help but think of Dr. Stenger. A leading Shakespearean scholar at Arcadia University with a worldwide reputation in academia, prolific author and editor (resume of nearly 5,500 words), and former political activist and community organizer, Dr. Grady died on Sunday, May 8 of acute myeloid leukemia at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital. He was 74 years old.
“Hugh was a giant in his field,” Garland Deen McInnis wrote on the West Laurel Hill Funeral Home website. “Hugh and Sue Grady were also excellent VISTA volunteers in Houston in 1969 and 1970. I and many other volunteers were fortunate enough to meet them a few years ago during a VISTA [Volunteers in Service to America] meeting.”
“He had a big heart,” wrote Gayle Greene, a Shakespeare scholar at Scripps College in Claremont, California. “I hope there is a Zoom memorial. I would like to attend. So would dozens of other Shakespeareans.
Dr. Grady won Arcadia’s Ellington Beavers Faculty Award for Intellectual Research in 1990 and 2004, was Professor of the Year in 2001-2002, and received a 2004 National Endowment for Summer Research Grant. the Humanities.
Born in Savannah, Georgia, where he volunteered for the NAACP as a teenager—a brave thing to do in the Deep South at the time—Dr. Grady graduated from Benedictine Military School and earned a BA in English from Fordham University. He went to Paris for his first year of college. After seeing the almost daily student protests there against the Vietnam War and capitalist excesses, he became active in Fordham’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society and supported progressive policies for the rest of his life.
“We were both involved in civil rights and anti-war (Vietnam) movements,” his wife, Sue, told us last week. “We were VISTA volunteers in the Houston area and in community organizing. Hugh taught at a black high school for a year. Then we moved to Austin which was heaven if you had no money. Graduate school was only $1500 for one semester. We have been involved with the Bread & Roses School for Socialist Education for two to three years.
Sue Wells, originally from Poughkeepsie, NY, met Hugh when they were both studying English at Fordham. Sue and Hugh, married for 53 years, arrived in Philadelphia in 1985 when Sue was hired by Temple University, where she focused on teaching writing and rhetoric until her retirement in 2017.
Hugh taught at Temple for two years and then at Arcadia until his retirement in 2014. Their two daughters, Constance and Laura, attended Henry School in Mt. Airy.
“We were always hiking in the Wissahickon,” Sue said. “First around Kitchens Lane; then we moved on to the Bells Mill Road area which was damaged by Hurricane (Sandy). Then we moved on to the Northwestern Avenue area, then to Andorra. We loved every part of the park!”
Beginning in 1987, Dr. Grady taught undergraduate and graduate courses in contemporary writing, literature, and critical theory at Arcadia. His classes were memorable, according to many former students and faculty members.
Dr Grady, who also played acoustic guitar and discussed “Paradise Lost” while he and Sue washed the dishes, earned his doctorate in English and Comparative Literature from the University of Texas at Austin in 1978, edited four Shakespeare anthologies, authored several monographs on John Donne and Shakespeare, authored or co-authored 65 articles in scholarly publications, 14 reviews of other professors’ writings on Renaissance literature, and delivered over 70 research articles universities in countless cities and countries. He has chaired dozens of seminars and consulted on numerous book proposals.
“Hugh’s last book was about the relationship between art and politics, emphasizing that art can be a political force,” Sue said. “It was important to him… He always stood up for what he believed in, but he was friendly to anyone who was friends with him. It’s a tough loss, but speaking to you for this article is one thing I can still do for him.
In addition to his wife and daughters, Dr. Grady is survived by two grandchildren, three sisters and other relatives. Services were held May 15 and 26 and there is a memorial page on Facebook. Donations in his name may be made to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Donor Services, PO Box 22324, New York, NY 10087.
Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org