Print This Issue


February 21, 2012, Volume 58, No. 23

Dr. Benson, History

L. BensonDr. Lee Benson, professor emeritus of history and a Distinguished Senior Fellow of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, died on February 10 from complications after a fall. He was 90 years of age.

He was co-founder of the Netter Center’s university-assisted community school program that has, since its inception in 1985, been seen as a national model of university civic engagement. Dr. Benson continued to be fully engaged with the Netter Center, serving on its Faculty Advisory Board, writing and co-teaching with the Center’s director an undergraduate seminar on “Urban University-Community Relations” until his death. He was co-executive editor of the Netter Center’s Universities and Community Schools journal, co-author of Dewey’s Dream (2007), and was the author or co-author of dozens of articles and chapters on university civic engagement and the role of higher education in educating students for democratic citizenship.

Dr. Ira Harkavy, director of the Netter Center called his colleague, “a distinguished scholar, inspiring and beloved teacher, and active citizen, who devoted his life to working to change the world for the better. Lee’s pioneering work, The Concept of Jacksonian Democracy, introduced the application of social science theory and methodology to the discipline of history.”

Dr. Benson also authored numerous books, chapters and articles pertaining to history. He also received many grants and honors throughout his academic career.

Prior to coming to Penn in 1964, Dr. Benson held positions of research associate, instructor and lecturer at the Bureau of Applied Social Research, Columbia University from 1952-1960, and professor of history at Wayne State University from 1960-1964. In 1976, he served as the first president of the Social Science History Association. He became a professor emeritus at Penn in 1990.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Benson earned his BA from Brooklyn College in 1947 after serving as a first lieutenant in the Army during World War II, leading a platoon involved in the liberation of Dachau. He was honored with a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for Valor. He earned his MA from Columbia University in 1948, and his PhD from Cornell University in 1952.

Dr. Benson is survived by his daughter, Sally.

Donations in Dr. Benson’s memory may be made payable to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania and sent to the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania, 133 S. 36th Street, Suite 519, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

A memorial service to honor Dr. Benson and his accomplishments is planned for May 1, at 3 p.m. in Houston Hall. Inquiries may be directed to the director’s office of the Netter Center for Community Partnerships, (215) 898-5351.

Dr. Coffin, English

T. CoffinDr. Tristram P. Coffin, professor emeritus of English, passed away January 31 at age 89.

Born in San Marino, California, Dr. Coffin earned his bachelor’s degree in English from Haverford College in 1943. After serving in the US Army Air Forces, he earned his MA and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania in 1947 and 1949, respectively, studying under MacEdward Leach.

Prior to coming to Penn, Dr. Coffin served on the faculty of Denison University, where a scholarship was created in his name and he was elected into its Athletic Hall of Fame. Dr. Coffin was named a Guggenheim Fellow in 1953.

An internationally known ballad scholar, Dr. Coffin was appointed to the Penn faculty in 1958 as an associate professor of English. He held a secondary appointment in the department of folklore & folklife, which was established in 1962. He was promoted to professor in 1964 and was vice dean in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences from 1965-68. He taught courses in English, American literature and folklore literature including Elizabethian Drama, Writers from the Revolution to World War II, American Black Lore and American Indian in American Literature. He obtained emeritus status in 1984.

Dr. Coffin also was a visiting lecturer at the US Military Academy from 1962-63. He hosted the public television series on folk songs, “Lyrics & Legends” from 1963-64.

He was the author of over a dozen books including The Book of Christmas Folklore, Folklore and the American Revolution, The Old Ball Game: Baseball in Folklore & Fiction and The Female Hero in Folklore and Legend.
Dr. Coffin is survived by two sons, Mark T. and Jonathan (Jock) P.; two daughters, Patricia C. Fry and Priscilla C. Widlak; 11 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

Dr. Murphy, Urology

J. MurphyDr. John J. Murphy, professor emeritus of urology in the Perelman School of Medicine and former chief of the division of urology in the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, passed away February 6; he was 91 years old.

Dr. Murphy joined the staff of HUP in 1953 after completing a surgical residency there and a urology residency at the University of Michigan. His career included teaching, clinical practice and surgery. He was appointed to the faculty in 1956 as an assistant professor. Dr. Murphy was promoted to associate professor in 1960 and to full professor in 1964. He was director of the division of urology at HUP from 1964 to 1980. After retiring from surgery in 1988, he remained on the faculty. He obtained emeritus status in 1991.

He also held appointments at the VA Medical Center and was a senior consultant in the urology department at Mercy Catholic Medical Center in Darby Borough and volunteered at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

A frequent traveler, Dr. Murphy was a visiting professor at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin. In the 1970s, he was invited to consult on the layout and completion of the urology department at a new hospital in Doha, Qatar.

He published numerous papers on surgical techniques and the management of various urological problems.

Dr. Murphy was a member of several professional organizations, including the Halsted Society and the American College of Surgeons. He was past president of the Mid-Atlantic section of the American Urological Association.

Born in Scranton, PA, Dr. Murphy earned his bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Scranton in 1942 and his medical degree from Penn in 1945. He then served in the US Army Medical Corps after completing his internship at HUP.

Dr. Murphy is survived by his wife, Alice; daughters, Madeline Curry, Alice Mitchell, and Patricia Donnelly; a son, Peter; a brother, Donald J. Murphy; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. He is predeceased by his son, John.

Donations may be made to the Nature Conservancy, 4245 N. Fairfax Dr., Suite 100, Arlington, VA 22203.

To Report A Death

Almanac appreciates being informed of the deaths of current and former faculty and staff members, students, and other members of the University community.

However, notices of alumni deaths should be directed to the Alumni Records Office at Room 545, Franklin Building, (215) 898-8136 or e-mail record@ben.dev.upenn.edu


Almanac - February 21, 2012, Volume 58, No. 23