Dr. Murray D. Arndt died August 30.
He taught for more than 30 years for UNCG’s Department of English, serving as director of Warren Ashby Residential College. His courses were focused on writing, twentieth-century poetry, and the Bible as literature. One of his favorite classes was called “Grail Literature,” which included many works not usually seen as religious, such as The Old Man and the Sea and films like Bagdad Café. Before earning his Ph.D from Duke in 1970, he was an ordained priest and served the priesthood for 12 years. He was also active in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s.
He is remembered as an inspiring, heartfelt teacher.
UNCG faculty members provided the following reflections:
“‘College is not a pie eating contest.’ I was quoting Murray just yesterday, during our RC tradition of core lecture. Two former students were speaking about their experiences and regrets from their time at UNCG, and they commented that they wished they had slowed down the pace and absorbed their experiences here more deeply. Between his leadership of Ashby for 13 years and Fran’s for 17 years, he has had 30 years to open minds and hearts. He inspired kindness, thoughtfulness and strong sincerity. It is no surprise that students adored him long after they graduated.”
~Dr. Sara Littlejohn, Ashby College & Strong College Program Chair
“When I first met Murray Arndt about 25 years ago, he was already retired. However, he was about the least “retired” Professor on campus. I first met him as he was preparing to teach his Grail Literature course, and I marveled at the group of 25 or so usually sleepy undergrads who were eagerly awaiting the start of class. He was one of the most engaging lecturers and speakers I had ever heard; he brought an unmistakable gravitas to his classrooms, to social events in Ashby College, and to reunions with Ashby students. Murray’s words were always well thought out and impactful, and his quiet nature disguised a broad sense of humor, a deep sense of social justice and a true care for his students. I distinctly remember a talk he gave to students in Ashby College where he encouraged the students to slow down, enjoy college, embrace new ideas, and never feel that your major was a definition of you as a person, for each of is so much more than a set of 36 or so credit hours. Murray embodied everything that the word ‘professor[‘ can encompass.
~Dr. Chrissy Flood, Ashby College Associate Program Chair
“When I started my position as the Ashby Residential College Coordinator in 2011, I met Murray and Fran. Within moments, Fran started talking with me about the Western film ‘Shane,’ and Murray secured my commitment to visit his class and read aloud a section of ‘The Waste Land.’ I knew I was in a place that was good. Both retired after that year, but Murray returned each fall, right before exams, to read Christmas stories and drink hot chocolate with the students. I’ll always remember his deep emotional relationship with literature and with learning. He inspired me to change the trajectory of my own career, to slow down and love what I’m doing, and always to be present with the students. I’ll remember his voice, a deep and gentle rumble. It’s the voice that I will hear each time I read a poem.”
-Dr. Will Dodson, Ashby & Strong Residential College Coordinator