April 7, 1997
John L. Halverson, a founding faculty member of Stevenson College and a professor of literature here for 27 years, died in Santa Cruz on Friday, March 28, after several months of illness. He was 69.
Halverson was born and raised in Iowa. Before entering college he served for three years in the U.S. Air Force. He earned his bachelor's degree in humanities from the University of Denver, a master's degree in philosophy from Columbia University, and master's and doctorate degrees in English language and literature from UC Berkeley.
Before teaching, Halverson had a successful career as a professional trombone player. But his love of literature eventually led him away from the stage and into academia. Halverson taught at Princeton University during 1961-65 and was twice a Fulbright lecturer in Sri Lanka. He came to UCSC in 1966 and taught here until his retirement in 1993.
As a founding faculty member at Stevenson, Halverson was a principal architect of the college's core course. His academic interests were wide-ranging and covered such areas as the literature of ancient Greek, Medieval, and modern English eras; Buddhism; Christianity; linguistics; psychology; and Paleolithic art. Halverson edited and wrote the introduction and notes to a version of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales and coauthored the book Principles of Writing.
"One thing that made John unique was the fact that he was an excellent generalist," said professor emeritus of philosophy Carlos Norena, Halverson's friend and colleague of three decades. Norena said that Halverson wrote dozens of articles--all published in respected journals--on his broad-ranging interests. His last article, on Socrates and Plato, was published just the week before he died. Halverson was also dedicated to his students, many of whom he was still in close contact with at the time of his death.
Halverson's contributions to the campus were substantial. He served on dozens of college and campuswide committees, including the Committee on Educational Policy, on which he sat a number of times and also chaired in 1971-72 and 1980-82. He also served as chair of both the Linguistics and Literature Departments during the 1970s.
Halverson had no immediate family but Norena noted that he was devoted to his dogs, most of whom were unwanted or abandoned until Halverson took them in. Norena recalled a letter in which Halverson wrote that he was blessed with excellent friends and very good dogs. Many of those friends were at Halverson's side when he died last week.
Halverson contributed to many charitable organizations, supported a number of poor families in Sri Lanka, and sponsored the U.S. education of one Sri Lankan youth.
He has donated a significant portion of his estate to the UC Santa Cruz Foundation. The major portion of which will establish a need-based scholarship endowment for students at Stevenson as well an endowment in support of academic activities at Stevenson. Additionally, a $10,000 outright award to Stevenson College will support physical improvements to the college, particularly its library.
No memorial services are planned.
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