In Memoriam: Ernest C. Allison, RIC's longest-serving professor emeritus

Ernest C. Allison, RIC professor emeritus of English, died Dec. 8, 2009 in Scarborough, Maine. He was 101. Allison was the last surviving emeritus appointed by Joseph Kauffman, Rhode Island College’s fourth president. He was an emeritus at RIC for nearly 38 years – believed to be a record length of service.

Ernest Allison
Allison taught at RIC for 25 years, from 1947 until his retirement in 1972. In 1979, he received an honorary doctorate of humane letters from the college, which was presented to him by former RIC President David Sweet.

In the degree citation, Sweet said Allison was a “man whose modesty [was] outweighed only by [his] skill as a teacher.” Sweet added that Allison was being honored for “tireless devotion to your teaching and your students; for your integrity; for your ongoing examination of literature and life.”

According to his obituary, Allison wrote many short stories and poems. He was still writing very late into his life, working at his typewriter even when he could no longer see. He was also an avid reader and over the years built up a diverse book collection, which he donated to various colleges and individuals before he died.

Allison was born in Cambridge, Mass., on Sept. 14, 1908. He received degrees from Bates College and Boston University.

Allison and his wife Dorothy were married in 1936. They were together until her death in July 2008.

He is survived by a son, two grandsons, and several nephews and nieces.

Former RIC President John Nazarian ’54, once a student of Allison’s, recited a poem written by his former teacher when the college launched its $25 million capital campaign in 2002.

The symbol of the campaign was a massive oak tree modeled after the one located at the Mount Pleasant Ave. entrance to the college. The poem, written decades before the capital campaign, was titled “Oak Leaf Cluster.”

The final lines of Allison’s poem –

So gently are the new leaves born
That honor, praises to the old
We sing.