Dr. 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.