Karl Tamburr, Professor of English at Sweet Briar, Dies

| September 22, 2008

The Sweet Briar community was saddened to learn of the death of Karl Tamburr on Saturday, Sept. 20, 2008. Tamburr, 60, was a professor of English at the College for 33 years. He died after a brief illness.

Professor Tamburr received his bachelor’s in English from Princeton University and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Virginia. He began teaching at Sweet Briar in 1975. A specialist in literature of the Middle Ages, last year he celebrated the completion of a longtime project when his book, “The Harrowing of Hell in Medieval England,” was published.

Much loved by his colleagues on the College’s faculty and staff, Tamburr also was a favorite with students. In 1993, he received the Student Government Association’s Excellence in Teaching Award. His popularity spanned more than a generation.

“I’m advising students today whose mothers said what a great professor he was when they were here,” said Jonathan Green, dean of the College.

Green also noted Tamburr’s many performances for the Sweet Briar Theatre, especially when Shakespeare was on the playbill. Green said his favorite was Tamburr’s portrayal of the comedic constable Dogberry in “Much Ado about Nothing.” This summer he played Lord Capulet in “Romeo and Juliet,” an outdoor production staged in front of Benedict Hall by the Endstation Theatre Co.

Tamburr’s longtime colleague in the English department, retired professor Lee Piepho, described him as a fine teacher and scholar, a friend and a gentleman. Piepho said among his many contributions to the College were serving on the committee to hire President Elisabeth Muhlenfeld and as Sweet Briar’s representative for the Virginia Program at Oxford, for which he was twice the American director.

Tamburr also contributed to Sweet Briar’s Kids in College program, served on academic committees of the board of directors, and worked on United Way campaigns. He chaired the English department from 1986 to 1989 and received numerous grants and awards for scholarship.

Tamburr is survived by his wife of 33 years, Jane Campbell Tamburr.

According to an obituary in the Lynchburg News & Advance, he also is survived by his brother Joseph Tamburr and wife, Patricia, of Albany, N.Y.; a sister, Laurie Furlong and husband, Dr. James Furlong, of Sand Lake, N.Y.; an uncle, Karl Hoffmann, of Midlothian; and four nephews.

A private graveside service will be conducted at Briarwood Memorial Gardens by the Rev. Kathy Chase of Ascension Episcopal Church and the Rev. Adam White, chaplain of Sweet Briar College. A memorial service will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Almost Home Pet Adoption Center of Nelson County, 29 Stagebridge Road, Lovingston, VA 22949, or Sweet Briar College Student Scholarship Fund, Sweet Briar, VA 24595.

Whitten Monelison Chapel is assisting the family. To send a condolence to the family, please visit www.whittenfuneralhome.com.

Category: Creative Writing, English