The campus community mourns the passing of John “Jack” Wheatcroft ‘49, who died on Tuesday, March 14, 2017. After 44 years of service to the University, Jack retired as Professor Emeritus of English in 1996.
Jack was born in Philadelphia on July 24, 1925, the son of the Rev. Allen S. and Laura Wheatcroft. At the age of 16, he received a Mayor’s Scholarship and enrolled at Temple University. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July of 1943 at the age of 17. Jack served for three years in the Pacific theater on the U.S.S. Wisconsin, seeing action during the Battle of the Philippines, the South China Sea Campaign and the Battles of Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Honshu.
After the war, Jack found work in a machine shop, drove a taxi in Philadelphia and worked as an inspector in a Williamsport battery factory, all while attending school, first at Temple University and then transferring to Bucknell in 1948. After graduation, he spent a year at the University of Kansas before returning to Bucknell. He completed his MA in 1950 and earned a doctorate in 1960 at Rutgers University.
While at Bucknell, Jack earned the distinction of Presidential Professor from 1979-1986 and received numerous awards for his teaching, including the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1964, the Class of 1956 Lectureship in 1956, and Pennsylvania Professor of the Year in 1986. In 1988, Jack played a central role in establishing the University’s Stadler Center for Poetry, where he served as the first director. Part of his vision entailed rejuvenating the 19th century Bucknell Hall building into a sanctuary for poetry. The Center offers programs and residencies for emerging and established writers and publishes the national literary journal, West Branch.
Beyond his role at Bucknell, Jack was a prolific author, writing 26 books of poetry, fiction and plays. In retirement, he devoted himself full time to the craft, producing both novels and volumes of poetry into his late eighties. In the last several years, he was slowed by dementia and Parkinson’s but even in the shadow of illness, he produced a final remarkable book entitled, I Am?.
In the later decades of his life, Jack also found time for travel in England and other parts of Europe. He was an avid player of both chess and tennis, and a lifelong Yankee’s fan.
Jack is survived by his wife Katherine ’75 and by three children from his first marriage to Joan Mitchell Osborne: Allen and wife Carmen of Chicago, Illinois, David and wife Eve Granick of Westborough, Massachusetts and Rachel of Westborough, Massachusetts; three grandchildren, David, Kate and Hannah Wheatcroft; and one great granddaughter.
As requested by Jack, there will be no public service.
Members of the Bucknell Community are encouraged to visit our In Memoriam Site at bucknell.edu/InMemoriam and share personal notes of sympathy and remembrance with others.
On behalf of the entire Bucknell community, I extend our deepest sympathies to Jack’s family, as well as to all who knew him at Bucknell.
John C. Bravman