UC Berkeley press release


California historian Arthur J. Quinn, UC Berkeley professor of rhetoric, dies at age 54

by Kathy Scalise

Berkeley -- Arthur J. Quinn, noted historian of California and professor of rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley, died at his home in Berkeley on Thursday, May 15, after a long illness. He was 54 years old.

A third-generation Californian, Quinn was a native of Marin County, born and reared in San Rafael. After graduating from Marin Catholic High School, he studied at the University of San Francisco, where he also played baseball, and then at Princeton University, which awarded him a PhD in the history and philosophy of science in 1970.

Quinn began his teaching career at the University of Oregon in 1968 and moved to UC Berkeley two years later.

Once described by UC Berkeley's Nobel laureate poet Czeslaw Milosz as "the Ecclesiastes of the West Coast," Quinn published books on many subjects, including the history of the United States and especially his native California.

Quinn wrote three books on California history: "The Broken Shore" (1981) recapitulates great themes of western civilization within a history of Marin County; "The Rivals" (1994) narrates struggles for justice and order in San Francisco and California on the eve of the Civil War; and "Hell With the Fire Out" (1997) recreates from eyewitness accounts the grim story of the Modoc War.

His master work, "A New World: An Epic of Colonial America from the Founding of Jamestown to the Fall of Quebec" (1994), tells how Europeans re-enacted their social, political and religious heritages.

His UC Berkeley service was marked by reorganization of the undergraduate major in rhetoric and terms as chair of the department and director of college writing. He was known especially for his passion for teaching good writing and for the wide range of subjects he taught.

His many honors included Woodrow Wilson, National Science Foundation, and Danforth fellowships; the Award of Merit of the California Historical Society; a UC Berkeley Distinguished Teaching Award; and a fellowship of Clare Hall, Cambridge, England, where he was living with his family when he fell ill. He was also a member of PEN, the international writers' association.

Quinn is survived by his wife, Barney Roddy Quinn, a native of Ross, Calif., and four children, Edward, Mary, Joseph, and Elizabeth, all of Berkeley; his mother, Roselyn Quinn of San Rafael, Calif.; and his sister, Susan Woodall of San Rafael.

A funeral mass will be held at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 20 at St. Mary Magdalen's Church in Berkeley. Friends are invited to donate in his name to a charity of their choice.

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