March 31, 2006

Cornell Mourns Loss Of Prof. McMillin, 71

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Prof. Scott McMillin, English, was a reader, writer and lover of literature. The professor devoted much of his life to understanding stories told in musicals and drama and sharing this knowledge with others. The books that adorn his office – the Shakespearean classics and musical theater histories – signify his passions and now lie open on his desk, signaling his sudden departure.

On Wednesday morning, McMillin, 71, passed away from a stroke that he had suffered the previous Thursday. McMillin, who had just been given a clean bill of health, was reading a book when the stroke suddenly struck.

“I loved the man. I honor his memory, [and] I’m very sad that he’s gone,” said friend and colleague Prof. Emeritus Winthrop Wetherbee III, English. “It’s a shock and a loss.”

McMillin was born on June 29, 1934. After matriculating into Princeton during 1956, he spent time in the United States Navy before going on to earn his MA from George Washington University and a PhD from Stanford. In 1964, McMillin began working at Cornell and earned tenure in 1972.

As both an academic and professional, McMillin garnered an extensive number of accomplishments, many of which centered around his great love for British drama and American musical theater.

McMillin had published four books and dozens of articles on Elizabethan drama. He also had two books in the works before he passed away. One of them, Musical as Drama, is due to come out this year. He won Cornell’s Clark Distinguished Teaching Award in 1972. In 1998, his book, The Queen’s Men and Their Plays, won him the Sohmer-Hall Prize for best work of early theater history. McMillin additionally earned fellowships for the National Endowment of the Humanities American Philosophical Society.

While McMillin’s list of accomplishments is vast, it was his many passions, coupled with his achievements, that earned him the respect and friendship of his colleagues.

“It will be a long time before we get over losing Scott,” said Prof. Stuart Davis, English. “He was engaged to the hilt in everything he believed in: stage history, the teaching of Elizabethan and modern drama, the fight against inequality and racism here and abroad, the residential life of Cornell students. There was no more rigorous scholar or kinder or more committed man.”

One of the interests that Davis alludes to is teaching. Justin Leader ’06, who had McMillin as an instructor, remembers McMillin’s enthusiasm for his subjects and students.

“As a teacher, McMillin was passionate and professional about his ideas and about his students. As a friend, he was passionate about our futures and our ideas,” Leader said.

McMillin’s fervors extended far beyond the classroom; he also invested a great deal of his time in social issues.

“His commitment to social justice was low-keyed, unshowy [sic], unwavering and for keeps,” said Prof. Paul Sawyer, English.

In 1990, McMillin co-founded the Harlem Literacy Project. According to Wetherbee, McMillin’s interest in the program stemmed from his experience as a faculty fellow for Ujamaa. McMillin also spent time as a faculty fellow for Risley Residential College.

Outside of the academic and social world, McMillin indulged himself in his more leisurely passions: jazz and baseball. He is said to have been a skilled jazz piano player and avid baseball fan.

McMillin was also, according to Wetherbee and others interviewed by The Sun, “a very good friend” and an “extremely kind” man. He is survived by his wife and three sons. There will be a private funeral later this week and a public memorial to be determined at a later date.

Archived article by Lauren Hirsch
Sun Senior Editor