The late Robert Lucid (pictured, standing, ca. 1970), was a beloved teacher and faculty master, scholar and chairman of numerous Penn boards and councils. A fixture on campus for more than three decades, Lucid joined Penn’s English Department in 1964 as assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 1968 and became a full professor in 1975. When he retired in 1996, he was chairman of Penn’s Collegiate Planning Board, the Council of Undergraduate Deans and the Council in Faculty Residence. He had also served as the faculty master at Gregory and Hill college houses.
In the classroom, Lucid lectured on mass-audience literacy and literature in America—a topic near and dear to his heart. While in Chicago heading up a visiting writers program, Lucid struck up a friendship with the then-young writer Norman Mailer. Over the years, Lucid edited two books about the author, and before his passing, was in the process of completing Mailer’s authorized biography.
Admired by students and faculty alike, Lucid won two distinguished teaching awards over the years: the Lindback in 1975 and the Ira Abrams in 1987. He had also served as chairman of the English Department from 1980-85 and again in 1990. But Lucid’s most visible legacy at Penn may be Kelly Writers House, which he was instrumental in helping to establish.
On a 2007 webpage dedicated to remembering Lucid, Al Filreis, current Writers House faculty director, wrote: “Through his many years living and working in a residential college and as a department chairman, Bob Lucid developed an idea about teaching and learning that he often expressed through the trope of ‘the loft space.’ ... Faculty, students, staff, writerly Philadelphians and Penn alumni gathered in the new-found space to fit out and furnish what was, after all, just one of several instances of Bob Lucid’s plans for inventing alternative modes of higher-education learning.”
To read more about Lucid’s legacy, visit www.writing.upenn.edu/wh/archival/events/lucid/. For more information on this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on April 8, 2010