A Place to Commune, A Place to Remember
USC College’s English department dedicates a commons room in honor of Richard S. Ide, beloved professor and administratorBy Wayne Lewis
October 1, 2006
In the early ’70s, Richard S. Ide and his friends tried to establish a commune in Vermont. It was meant to keep them in contact with each other, and provide a place they could always return with their families. It never came to fruition.
More than 30 years later, a commons room for faculty and students has been established at USC College in honor of the beloved English professor, who died almost seven years ago at age 55.
The College’s English department recently held a dedication ceremony to inaugurate the Richard S. Ide Memorial Commons Room. The room in Taper Hall will host lectures and meetings, but primarily will provide a gathering place for faculty and students.
“Here is a commune that, in some sense, he built,” English professor Thomas Gustafson said during the Oct. 6 ceremony. “This is a commune that will last for as long as the English department will last, and that’ll be for a long, long time.
“And Richard is our guiding spirit.”
During his nearly 20 years at USC, Ide served as chair of the English department, dean of humanities and vice provost of undergraduate programs.
Ide is credited with transforming the university’s undergraduate curriculum. He taught in the university’s general education program and in the College’s Thematic Option honors program.
Ide was an expert on Elizabethan drama and literature whose publications included Possessed with Greatness: The Heroic Tragedies of Chapman and Shakespeare (University of North Carolina Press, 1980) and Composite Orders: The Genres of Milton’s Last Poems (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1983).
He died on Christmas Day 1998 due to complications from AIDS.
Joseph Boone, professor and former chair of English, first envisioned a commons room for the English department when the department was slated for remodeling three years ago. He spearheaded the $100,000 fund-raising effort to name the room, designed the room’s interior, and purchased its modernist-inspired furnishings.
The room is stocked with books by English faculty and decorated with art on loan from the USC Fisher Gallery.
“Finally, to have a space we can call our own is really important to us,” said Boone. “It’s appropriate that a commons room will bear Richard’s name. His vision of commonality, of intersection, will be created every time students, faculty, anybody stops in.”
On the walls, joining a plaque recognizing 30 donors who contributed $1,000 or more and photos commemorating Ide, are an abstract painting by Percival Everett, professor of English, and an Impressionist-style portrait by Dorothy Braudy, artist and wife of University Professor Leo Braudy.
Born in 1943, Ide grew up in Rochester, N.Y, son of the late Dr. and Mrs. A. Gordon Ide. After graduation from McQuaid Jesuit High School in Rochester, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he distinguished himself as a scholar and athlete. Ide then served as a field intelligence officer in the Vietnam War. He received his doctoral degree from Johns Hopkins University. In 1981, he joined the College’s English faculty.
USC College Dean Peter Starr said Ide was an inspiration.
“Richard was a tremendous scholar and a tremendous teacher,” Starr said. “And a paragon of the kind of person who could do what needs to be done for the institution, and get it done with humanity.”
Hilary Schor, College dean of undergraduate programs, said the tribute to Ide transcends the English department.
“This room is a tribute to our community,” Schor said, “the teaching that we do, the students whose lives we have touched, the families we’ve interacted with, the way that USC reaches out into the community — and the world of knowledge that we all contribute to.
“This is the memorial, and it’s a living memorial. It will go on growing.”
At the close of the ceremony, English majors Amarinth Borsuk, Amy Schroeder and Saba Ravzi read evocative poems by Ide documenting his war experience.
“Richard was an utterly honorable human being,” said Ide’s friend and former colleague Stuart Curran, an English professor at the University of Pennsylvania. “There was honor in the selflessness with which he served this institution, and with which he also served his friendships.”
Among the benefactors whose matching funds were critical in launching the fund-raising efforts were David Bohnett, a USC alumnus and friend of Ide’s, and Ide’s sister, Mary O’Grady.
O’Grady, who spoke at the ceremony, imagined how her brother would have thanked his colleagues and friends for the dedication.
“He would simply say, ‘Thank you for your love, friendship and thoughtfulness. I’m so happy my memory will be with you in this place.’ “
Although enough funds have been raised for establishment of the Richard S. Ide Memorial Commons Room, additional donations to the Ide Memorial Fund are still being accepted. These funds will go toward keeping resources now available for English department students and faculty current. For more information or to make a donation, please contact Susan Redfield in the Office of College Advancement at (213) 740-4990.