School 09

Bruce W, Bashford

April 6, 1944 ~ February 20, 2021 (age 76)


HILLSDALE—After six years of treatment for prostate cancer and two for gastric and esophageal cancers (cruel for a food lover) Bruce Wilson Bashford succumbed to his diseases and passed away on February 20, 2021 in his Hillsdale home, attended by his loving wife.  Born in Schenectady, he was raised in Hillsdale, where he graduated from Roe Jan High School before earning a B.A. from University of Rochester and a Ph.D. in English from Northwestern.  In his youth he was very athletic.  He hunted and fished, pitched on his high school and college baseball teams, earned a Karate black belt, worked out with weights regularly, and often commuted on bicycle to his position as English professor at Stony Brook University. 

          There his main passion was undergraduate teaching.  Humble, self-effacing, respectful, and a sensitive listener, he taught his students to think for themselves and present arguments rooted in the texts.  He took their ideas seriously, often writing pages of comments on their essays.  One student wrote ”Bashford had a way of making a class of 40 people seem personal, and more intimate.... Bashford’s class changed my life, because it gave me a confidence that I was a thinking individual.”

          Bruce loved art and music, especially jazz, classical, opera, and ballet. A curious and cosmopolitan man, he spent his sabbaticals in London and Rome.  A talented and acomplished amateur photographer, he occasionally exhibited his photos and garnered awards. One semester he taught Photography Criticism for the Stony Brook Art Department. 

          A lifelong nature lover, Bruce enjoyed trees, birds, and the wild animals—especially bears and bobcats—that he loved to capture on his trail cameras.  He delighted in retiring to Hillsdale and reconnecting with his many local friends and his beloved landscape.    He also loved sports, especially baseball, one of his favorite conversation topics.

          Bruce’s book  Oscar Wilde: The Critic as Humanist earned him an international reputation as a pioneering Oscar Wilde scholar—one of the first critics to take Wilde seriously as a thinker.   

          His cremation was handled by Peck & Peck Funeral Homes, and, because of the pandemic, there are no immediate plans for a memorial, nor are there visiting hours.  He was predeceased by his parents Byaly Bashford and Dorothy (Wilkes) Bashford, as well as his brother Wilkes Bashford.  He will be remembered as a kind, gentle, intelligent, playful, earthy, very funny man by his friends, students, and especially by his wife, Joan Esposito, who survives him, and will never forget the warmth of his enchanting smile.

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