Jesper Rosenmeier, Longtime Professor of English, Dies

A highly regarded teacher, he founded and led the American Studies Program during a Tufts career that spanned four decades

Jesper Rosenmeier in 1974

Jesper Rosenmeier, the Fletcher Professor of English Emeritus, died suddenly on April 3; he was 79. He officially retired from Tufts in 2004, but was teaching a seminar on early American literature this semester. He was, in fact, on his way to class prior to his passing.

Born in Denmark, Rosenmeier received an A.B. in English from Princeton in 1957 and a Ph.D. in the history of American civilization from Harvard in 1966. He came to Tufts in 1962 as an instructor, and over the next 40 years dedicated himself to his students as an assistant professor, professor and program administrator. In 1980, he founded the American Studies Program and served several terms as director between 1980 and 1992. He remained a member of the English Department after his retirement and continued to teach the occasional course.

“Jesper brought a new kind of energy and liberation to the teaching of American Puritanism,” said Sol Gittleman, the Alice and Nathan Gantcher University Professor and former provost of the university, who joined the faculty just two years after Rosenmeier. “In many ways, he reacted to the tyranny of 17th-century America and created in his classroom an openness to student inquiry that made him one of the most beloved teachers of his generation. He was Mr. Chips with a Danish accent.”

“Those of us who were fortunate enough to know Professor Rosenmeier and to work with him admired and respected him for his great enthusiasm and energy, for his passionate commitments as a teacher and a scholar of Puritanism and early American literature, as the founder of the American Studies Program and as a pioneer in the field of environmental studies,” Joanne Berger-Sweeney, dean of Arts and Sciences, wrote in a message to the Tufts community.

Rosenmeier’s regular presence on campus “makes his loss that much more painful, but his continuing evolution as a scholar and teacher—just before his death, he was planning a new course in environmental studies—makes his example that much more inspiring,” Berger-Sweeney said.

As a scholar and teacher, Rosenmeier received numerous fellowships, grants and prizes. He held the Fletcher Professorship for 20 years, from 1984 until he retired, and was widely published. At Tufts, he served on numerous departmental, program and university committees and subcommittees, including the Experimental College board that produced the proposal for the Freshman Explorations Program in the early 1970s. In 1993 he chaired the committee and wrote the proposal to establish the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies, and he served on the Educational Policy Committee from 1992 to 1997.

Rosenmeier is survived by five children, including Leah Morine Rosenmeier, J84, G94. His wife, Rosamund, an English teacher and a poet, died in 2011.

A remembrance service for Jesper Rosenmeier will be held at Tufts on Friday, April 25. Participants will meet at the Academic Quad, between East Hall and Eaton Hall; rain venue at Terrace Room, Paige Hall. A golden yellow banner will be hung at the site at 3:30 p.m., followed by a celebration of his life, including a Quaker-style speaking circle, in which any who wish may participate with spoken word, song or music, at about 4 p.m. A reception will follow at the Terrace Room, Paige Hall, 12 Upper Campus Road, until 6 p.m.

A memorial service for Jesper Rosenmeier will be held on Saturday, April 26, at 2 p.m. at Belmont Habitat, 10 Juniper Road, Belmont, Mass. All are welcome. For remembrances and condolences, visit

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