Romanticism lives on through the legacy of Professor Clay Nunnally

Photo credit: Robert Foran III

In the class, Literature of Romanticism English A330, Professor Clay Nunnally often recited poems. He recited long poems that stretched to not just one or two stanzas, but 30 plus lines filled with romanticism from the 1780’s to the early 1800’s.

Nunnally passed away on April 28, 2018. He has left a mark on staff and students who appreciated his passion for literature.

Nunnally graduated with a Ph.D. in romanticism and Victorian literature in 1968 and moved to Alaska to teach in 1971. He taught for 45 years at UAA and was awarded the “Clay Nunnally Teaching Award” in 2015 for his excellence before retiring.

Nunnally was known for his three-piece suit, a pince-nez and a flower in his lapel he wore every day, said Patricia Linton, senior associate dean for academics.

“His love for the beauty of literature reflected in the way he carried himself and the way he cared about people,” Daniel Kline, professor, said.

He was an impressionable professor with a scholarly aura calling his students “Mr.” or “Ms.” When teaching his classes, he talked about his personal life to relate and engage students with each passage.

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“I took away a lot of personal life lessons from his classes. He talked about his wife and his marriage in such a positive way that I decided I was going to bring positivity to my future marriage. He also taught us to find something you love so much, you never want to retire,” Abby Slater Whipple, a journalism major and former staff member of The Northern Light, said. “I’ll always remember the way that he spoke about literature with so much reverence. His classes were always packed full.”

Robert Foran, a UAA alumnus, took his literature of romanticism class in 2015. Foran was moved by Nunnally’s passion for teaching literature that he created a video of Nunnally for a final journalism project.

“I found that behind his teaching persona, he was a regular, humble and happy man who led a life of love, travel and positively affecting students’ lives,” Foran said. “Most of all, he pursued what he talked to me a lot about — a quiet, simple lifestyle. He was a sensible and compassionate human being. I genuinely enjoyed him as a teacher and a person. I never missed a class, and I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to be his student.”

With his fashionable suit, pince-nez, wry humor and care for his students and colleagues, Nunnally’s significance at UAA lives on beyond his years.