Gerald John (Jack) Brenner died unexpectedly of a stroke on February 8, 2013, at Virginia Mason Hospital. Born June 16, 1932, in Idalia, Colorado, he was 79 years old. A semipro pitcher, Jack was scouted by the Yankees and the Dodgers before entering the University of Colorado as an undergraduate. He earned his PhD from the University of New Mexico in American literature and fiction writing, joining the UW English Department faculty in 1966. While teaching, Jack also directed the Upward Bound Program and the Puget Sound Writing Project. He retired in 2000, a well-loved teacher, awarded the English Department Distinguished Teaching Award (1990) and two Fulbright lectureships. He cared deeply about his students and embodied to perfection a dictum he often repeated to new teachers: “Don’t be teacherly.”
Jack’s enthusiasms carried far beyond the university, into every aspect of his life, and gave him a remarkable openness to new experiences and opportunities. Thus a chance sighting of a group of amateur baseball players while teaching in Bulgaria led to his becoming “Jack Brenner: the first Bulgarian baseball coach in the world.” An avid fly fisherman, gardener, bird watcher, golfer, Ella Fitzgerald fan, storyteller, poetry lover, and inveterate mentor and teacher, he will be sorely missed by his family and many friends, colleagues, and students. He is survived by his beloved wife, Midge; and two daughters, Lise Brenner and Jessica Nicholas (Larry Nicholas); his grandsons Sam and Andy Nicholas; and, in Colorado, his sister, Jeanette Schiel, niece Debra Jackson, and nephews Dennis and Doug Schiel. A memorial service was held on February 24th at the Graham Visitor’s Center in the University of Washington Arboretum. The family asks that donations in his name be sent to Habitat for Humanity.
“We love the things we love for what they are.” (Robert Frost)