In Memoriam: Dr. Peter J. Stanlis, 1919-2011
By the Rev. Joan Surrey Clark
Rockford College Professor Emeritus
Dr. Peter John Stanlis, 91, distinguished professor of humanities emeritus of Rockford College, died peacefully in his sleep in his Rockford home July 18.
Stanlis was born Aug. 12, 1919, to Lithuanian immigrant parents in Newark, N.J. His education included graduation from Nutley (N.J.) High School in 1937, a 1942 bachelor of arts degree from Middlebury College (Vermont), a 1944 master of arts degree from Middlebury’s Bread Loaf Graduate School of English, and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1951.
He was a faculty member at Rockford College for more than 20 years, including a term as Chairman of the English Department. Rockford College awarded him an Honorary Ph.D. in Humanities after his retirement.
Dr. Stanlis was the world’s authority on the British statesman Edmund Burke, having written more publications about Burke than anyone living or dead. In addition, he wrote several books and many articles about his friend and mentor, the poet Robert Frost.
Dr. Stanlis lectured at prestigious academic gatherings both in the U.S. and abroad, and translations of his works have appeared in Swedish, French, German, Italian and Japanese.
His two most influential books are Edmund Burke and the Natural Law, now in its fifth edition, and Robert Frost: The Poet as Philosopher.
He served as President Ronald Reagan’s appointee for six years on The National Endowment for the Humanities beginning in 1982. In 1987, he was appointed a British Academy Research Fellow.
Stanlis was a member of Holy Family Catholic Church, Rotary, the Board of the Rockford Institute, Adviser to The Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal (in Mecosta, Mich.), founding member of The American Society for 18th Century Studies, Distinguished Member of The Philadelphia Society, member of The Caxton Club of Chicago, co-founder of The Robert Frost Stone House Museum near Bennington, Vt., and its Friends of Frost; member of the Conference on British Studies, perennial member of the Frost Scholars Annual Gatherings, to only mention a few of his many honors and activities.
His wife, Eleanor Stanlis (eminent violinist and founder of The Rockford College Music Academy/The Music Academy of Rockford) and his daughter Ellie preceded him in death. Survivors include his daughter Ingrid (Paul Donnelly); stepchildren Margaret Batjer McNeeley (Joel), Dr. Hunt Batjer, and Peter Batjer; and Rockford College Professor Emeritus Joan Surrey Clark.
A funeral service for Stanlis will be Monday, Aug. 1, at Holy Family Church, 4401 Highcrest Rd at 1 p.m. A reception will follow the service.
From the July 20-26, 2011, issue