My father, Les Stimmel, taught at Colorado A&M/Colorado State University from 1929 when he moved to Fort Collins until 1967 when he retired—almost 40 years. A tall, friendly man with a ready smile who wore a fedora over his abundant gray hair, he specialized in 19th-century American literature, mostly existentialists. He was known for his propensity to tardiness (his students used to make bets about how close to the last minute he would arrive for his classes) and his wry, ever-present sense of humor. (His master’s thesis was a study of humor in American literature.) He particularly loved to play with words.
Born to teach, he spent one unfulfilling year as temporary department chair, a position which took him out of the classroom and into having to hire (good experience) and fire (bad experience) staff. He could hardly wait to get back to teaching. His students liked and respected him, for although mild-mannered he held everyone to his own high standards of usage and grammar and one of his strengths was generating substantive discussions.
Whatever talent for writing I have came from him. He wrote essays, short stories, plays, and enough literary criticism to meet the “publish or perish” criterion in the department. One of his plays, If Men Played Cards as Women Do, was performed by the now defunct Town and Gown Theater.
His office was originally in Old Main. How well I remember its high, narrow windows, creaking floors, narrow stairways, and cavernous auditorium. When trains went by everything stopped until they had passed. Classes were suspended, actors froze in place, conversation was put on hold. My father had retired by the time that lovely old building burned to the ground, but he mourned it as did anyone who knew the building’s charms and eccentricities.
Willard Eddy was a colleague of his and a good friend, as were President Charles Lory and botany professor George Lane. My father would be pleased that the Eddy building has been renovated and that his friend’s legacy lives on.
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