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Neil Talbot Jumonville ’77

September 8, 2022, in Tallahassee, Florida, following a five-year battle with Alzheimer’s.

Neil was raised in the Council Crest neighborhood of Portland and graduated from Lincoln High School. After high school, he worked in a lumber mill and traveled around Europe for a few years. He began college at Pacific University and then transferred to Reed, where he wrote his thesis, “Market Socialism: The Theory and Its Critics,” advised by Profs. Peter Sinclair [economics 1976–77] and Maure Goldschmidt [political science 1935–81]. He received a fellowship to study history at Columbia and went on to receive another MA and his PhD from Harvard in American studies.

Florida State University offered him a teaching position, and he rose from assistant to full professor and then was named the William Warren Rogers Professor of History. He chaired the department from 2002 to 2008; a beloved classroom professor, he won teaching awards four separate years and was named Professor of the Year in 1995.

He said that at FSU he tried to employ “the best parts of the teaching philosophy at Reed...the benefits of intellectual and historical doubt. As Reed found, students rise to the level at which they are addressed and expected to perform. That is a lesson I try to follow.”

Neil’s main scholarship and publishing focused on mid-20th-century American intellectuals as cultural critics. His books include Critical Crossings: The New York Intellectuals in Postwar America (1991) and Henry Steele Commager: Midcentury Liberalism and the History of the Present (1999). In addition, he acted as editor and contributor to other books, and wrote journal articles, short essays, and reviews for journals and newspapers.

Neil believed the role of the intellectual was to persuade readers, to defend important ideas, and to write for the public and the civic good. Polyactive in university affairs, whether through committees or Thursday morning basketball, Neil believed in serving his community. Family and friends will recall his commitment to hospitality, his sense of humor, and his sincere concern for others.

Neil is survived by his sisters, Penny Abrahamson and Anne Flaningam, and his brothers, Bill Jumonville and Robert Moore-Jumonville.

Appeared in Reed magazine: June 2023

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