Lisa J. Kiser—
At the time of his recent retirement, Mark was an associate professor; he was a specialist in modern British and American literature and film. He will be remembered for his sharp wit, conversational brilliance, musicianship and deep knowledge of all things cultural, intellectual and political. He will be greatly missed.
Memories of Mark Conroy
Mark was one of the people who made me feel so welcome when I first got here; a group of us would go out for a weekly happy hour. He was a sweet man. I had a chance to talk to him in the late spring, and he told me openly how much he valued his wife during his illness. He’s very missed.
Conversation with Mark was always refreshing, from a bon mot exchanged in passing (he would call out a greeting from the knot of people in the hall with which one usually found him engaged) to extended conversations at Bernie’s Deli (in the early days) and local coffee shops. He was always interested in what motivated and interested others. I reconnected with Mark over coffee in June. At one point, I confessed that I was spending way too much time reading Icelandic contributions to Nordic Noir in preparation for a trip to the island. When I emailed some titles to Mark a few days later, he told me that he was already halfway through the first title on my list, and he was ready to pick up on our earlier conversation about genre fiction and the “atmospherics” of Icelandic murder mysteries. Never a dull moment. He will be sorely missed.
I arrived before Mark, but I can imagine him as an important part of the welcoming committee for so many colleagues. He always stopped to talk in the hallway and always had something on his mind. He was a very engaged colleague, knowledgeable, curious, and as others have said, witty. And what a great piano player. I'll miss him.
I am very sad to hear this news and especially grateful that I got to talk to Mark at the retirement celebration this spring. This morning, I was remembering fondly my interview in San Diego, how enjoyable it was. When I left the interview (in the hotel room—MLA in the early 2000s was so weird), I reported to friends that it felt so bizarrely relaxed that either I was definitely getting a campus visit or it was just too much fun to be tolerated in academia, so they’d never want to see me again.Turns out, Mark and the rest of the committee valued a good time, and the personal authenticity and tolerance for silliness on display that day is still one of my favorite qualities in my colleagues. Also there that day was Jim Buckley, also taken too soon by cancer and someone insistently true to himself.
I always enjoyed Mark’s wry wit and keen intellect, from the time we served together on the search committee that hired both Norman Jones and Cynthia Callahan. As Cynthia can attest, when we got to her interview, it was the end of the day, Mark and I were both feeling tired and a little giddy, and we all three just ended up have a hilarious and wonderful conversation—unexpected, perhaps, in a job interview. I always enjoyed him, and I’ll miss him.
Mark was a love. As warm as witty and as good a person as they come.
I too want to say something about the experience of being interviewed by Mark Conroy—which I was just talking about to Ernest Lockridge last Saturday. My MLA interview, back in 1988 in a hotel room in San Francisco is forever engraved in my memory: Ernest, Arnie Shapiro and Mark (it's very hard for me to believe that two of those three are now gone) engaging me in the liveliest, funniest conversation I'd ever had with anyone in my life up to that point. Mark and I argued (let's not talk about the fact that I was arguing with one of my interviewers, all right?), and it was fun and weird. I left that room—as I told Ernest last week—thinking, OH MY GOD I CAN'T BELIEVE I WANT TO GO LIVE IN OHIO.
And I loved Mark. He was difficult (he once made me cry at a grad studies committee meeting!), he could be relentlessly sarcastic and downright snarky, and I never once had a conversation with him that didn't leave me feeling that I'd learned something. He was one of the smartest people I've ever known, I have always considered him a friend (yes, even when he made me cry), and I will miss him. It's a terrible loss.
Michelle, I love this memory of Mark. I think for me, the most suprising, touching thing about Mark was his uxoriousness. Rarely have I met someone so utterly smitten with his wife. It showed such good taste. Mary is sweet, and kind, and her shyness can hide from others—though not from Mark—how infinitely interesting she is. He respected her so deeply, and it made one realize that his cynicism was only skin deep.
Mark was both kind and quick witted, had read just about everything, and had interesting things to say about it all. He will be greatly missed.
Mark was one of the first members of our English Dept. that I met, “way back” in San Diego when I was interviewing for this job. Later, I served with Mark on a search committee for another Mansfield hire. He was a pleasure to work with. He had a deep generosity beneath that sharp wit. He was kind and supportive to me on more than occasion, but I’m especially grateful for one such instance that came during a tough time when I needed it—and came with a bit of biting humor that got me to smile, which I also greatly appreciated.
Yes—he was disabused of most illusions, as far as I could tell, but it made him humane rather than bitter, and like Barbara Rigney he went out of his way to be welcoming to new junior faculty.
Do you have a memory of Mark Conroy that you would like to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.