Julius Elias, a former dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, died Feb. 25. He was 82.
A resident of Storrs, Elias came to UConn in 1974 as dean of liberal arts and sciences and as a member of the philosophy department.
He served as dean until he was appointed interim vice president for academic affairs in 1986, where he served for two years. He retired in 1992.
“He was a visionary, a hard worker, and a caring spirit,” says David Carter, chancellor of the Connecticut State University System and former associate vice president for academic affairs at UConn.
“He was my boss, my friend, and my father all in one. He was so special. As long as I live, there will always be a place in my heart for him.”
Carter adds, “He was brilliant, but he never lost the common touch. His spirit will always be with those whose lives he touched.”
Philosophy professor Joel Kupperman describes Elias as a “very good dean, highly intelligent, cultured, and responsive to the faculty.
He taught aesthetics in the philosophy department, and by all accounts was an extraordinarily good teacher. The aesthetics course wasn’t just about theory; he really taught a sense of the arts.
“He continued his scholarly pursuits, which is hard to do when you’re busy as a dean,” Kupperman adds.
“The fact that he published Plato’s Defense of Poetry during that time is amazing.”
Richard Norgaard, professor emeritus of finance, was part of a group of retired UConn faculty that met for lunch every other Wednesday. Elias was a member of the group.
“Julius was very knowledgeable and we enjoyed having him with us,” he says. “We’ll miss him.”
Karl Hakmiller, professor emeritus of psychology, describes Elias as a “cultured gentleman with a first-rate intellect.”
Elias was born in London. In the years after World War II, he was chief of the voluntary agencies liaison division of the International Refugee Organization, where he helped Jewish orphans and other victims of the Holocaust.
He came to the United States and studied philosophy at Columbia University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in 1955, an A.M. degree in 1958, and a Ph.D. in 1963.
His first teaching position was as a lecturer at the City College of New York in 1960, where he became a professor in 1972.
While he was dean, Elias taught regularly and earned high student ratings, in both the philosophy and music departments.
He taught courses in philosophy of literature, aesthetics, and ethics, and published scholarly articles. He also taught graduate seminars in opera, and published scholarly articles and operatic libretto translations.
He was an editor of the Journal of the History of Ideas for 12 years.
He was also an opera aficionado. His friends and colleagues talk about his vast collection of opera tapes and DVDs, with multiple copies of a given opera performed by different singers.
He translated about a dozen opera libretti for Columbia Records and other companies; gave graduate seminars in the music department on the major composers; and published articles on operas.
After he retired, he continued to teach opera at UConn and at the University of Hartford, and took groups to New York and to Europe and Australia to study opera.
Elias was predeceased by his wife, Wilma. He is survived by his son Anthony, his daughter-in-law Ellen, three grandchildren, a brother and a sister, and a longtime friend and colleague, Patricia Cremins.