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Remembering a medievalist: Roy Vance Ramsey

July 26, 2007
By Tasha Attaway

Warm and wonderful. That phrase was used often in describing Professor Emeritus of English Roy Vance Ramsey, who died Sunday following a battle with cancer. Plans for a memorial are pending, and details will be announced at a later date. 

Roy Vance and Mary Lou RamseyRamsey joined the Ohio University faculty as an assistant professor of English in 1967. He attained the rank of professor in 1976 and earned his academic reputation as an authority on the works of Chaucer. He retired and was awarded emeritus status in 1997, but continued to teach through spring 2000. 

"His evangelical love of Chaucer opened up a world to all of his students," said Assistant Professor of English Valorie Worthy, a former student of Ramsey's. 

Ramsey was the founding editor of the Variorum Chaucer and the Chaucer Newsletter and author of "The Manly-Rickert Text of 'The Canterbury Tales.'" 

"He would lecture for three hours straight," friend and former student Mimi Hart said, "but (the lectures) were riveting because the scope of his knowledge was staggering. His brain was unbelievable." 

Added Associate Professor of Medieval Language and Literature Josephine Bloomfield, "Vance Ramsey was a medievalist by profession, but by disposition he was a defender of the underdog, and that was his deepest lifelong pursuit." (Read a remembrance by Bloomfield.)

Ramsey was generous with his time as well as his knowledge, serving as a mentor to new faculty in the Department of English and helping them write grant requests. Among the administrative roles he held, he served as vice president of the Ohio University faculty association and served on Faculty Senate.

Ramsey's reputation as an authority on the works of Chaucer was matched by his passionate love for music, especially the blues. Now an assistant professor of English, Hart said he sang in a roadhouse band in his youth and generously shared his extensive music collection with her. Hart described him as "generous and good in every way" and said he would surprise her with gifts of CDs featuring Billie Holliday, Ella Fitzgerald, Pearl Bailey and others. Bloomfield credits him with introducing her to The Local Girls, a band that includes Hart as one of its members.

"Vance continued to be a very real presence in the lives of many of us after his retirement," Worthy said. "He could always be turned to for advice and information on multitudinous topics, and he was always generous. He will be dearly missed."

Ramsey is survived by his wife, Mary Lou, and sons, Keith and Brian. The family requests that contributions be made in his honor to the Appalachian Community Visiting Nurse Association, Hospice and Health Services, ACVNA, in lieu of flowers. Anyone who would like to participate in the memorial service should contact Worthy at worthy@ohio.edu.

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Published: Jul 20, 2006 3:50:00 PM
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