Prof. Warner Rice, former library director and English department chair, dies at 97

January 31, 1997
Contact: michigannews@umich.edu

ANN ARBOR—Warner Grenelle Rice, former chairman of the English Department and former director of the University Library at the University of Michigan, died Jan. 22 at Glacier Hills Nursing Center here after a brief illness. He was 97 years old.

Born and master’s degrees at the University of Illinois, where he served as an instructor from 1920 to 1922, and an M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University. He was also granted several honorary degrees and was the recipient of an Award for Distinguished Achievement presented by the Development Council of U-M.

One of a group appointed to initiate the Tutorial system at Harvard in 1924, Rice served as a tutor and as an instructor in English at Harvard and Radcliffe until 1929. At his death, he was the oldest living tutor in English.

Rice joined the U-M faculty in 1929, became a professor in 1936 and director of the University Library in 1941, a post he held until 1953. From 1948 until his retirement, Rice also filled the post of chairman of the English Department. Rice retired from U-M in 1969.

The author of a number of papers for the Modern Language Association, of which he was a member, and for the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters, Rice was a frequent contributor to educational, library, and scholarly journals and held memberships in numerous professional associations.

Rice accepted a variety of visiting professorships after retiring from U-M, but after his return to Ann Arbor, “he kept and used an office in Ann Arbor,” said E.L. Cloyd, associate professor of English. “He could usually be found pursuing his researches from his desk in the Rare Book Room of the library. The future of English studies in America was one of his passions, a topic he was still discussing in the last week of his life.”

Rice was preceded in death by his wife, the former Mary H. Wallace whom he married in 1929 and who died in October 1996. He is survived by two daughters—Jane La Rue of Evanston, Ill.; and Louise Tassone of San Mateo, Calif.—five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

A memorial service for Prof. and Mrs. Rice is planned for March 22 at 11 a.m. at St. Andrews Episcopal Church in Ann Arbor. Burial of both will be in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Boston. Memorial gifts may be sent to the Warner G. Rice Humanities Award at the U-M, to the University of Illinois Foundation, Harker Hall, Urbana, Ill. 61801, or to the Warner G. and Mary Hamilton Rice Faculty Fund at Wheaton College, Norton, Mass. 02766. Phone: (313) 647-4418