English Professor David Hankins Dies
John David Hankins, emeritus professor of English, died while snowshoeing in woods near his retirement home in Maine on March 10. He was struck by a tree cut by loggers working in the area and was pronounced dead at the scene.
Hankins was born in 1935, into an academic family. His father was a professor of English at the University of Kansas, his uncle at Yale University. Hankins earned his B.A. from Tufts University in 1958. The same year, he married a fellow graduate, Jean Fittz, who later earned her Ph.D. from UConn and became a scholar of American colonial history.
After receiving his Ph.D. in English at Indiana University in 1962, Hankins joined the English Department at UConn. A popular teacher, student adviser, and researcher for 30 years, he filled important roles in departmental and college administration. From 1968 to 1971 he was an assistant dean; and from 1971 to 1991 he was assistant department head.
Hankins also worked on Yale’s immense collection of documents connected with James Boswell. His major project was: The Miscellaneous Correspondence of James Boswell: 1757-1763, part of the multi-volume “Yale Research Edition of the Private Papers of James Boswell.”
Hankins was active in the local community. He chaired the Mansfield Conservation Commission, was president of the Joshua’s Tract Conservation Trust, and was senior warden of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Willimantic.
“We all loved Dave because he was a good man who was always helping others,” says Richard Reynolds, professor of English.
In 1992, Hankins and Jean retired to Otisfield, Maine. There, too, he served the community, sang in two local groups, and was a beekeeper and master gardener. An expert outdoorsman, he loved jogging, hiking, cross-country skiing, whitewater canoe racing, and snowshoeing.
Hankins leaves three children and seven grandchildren. A daughter, Sarah, died in l979.
Memorial gifts may be sent to The Bell Hill Belfry Fund, c/o Jean Hankins, 202 Scribner Hill Road, Otisfield, ME 04270.