Professor of English
October 7, 1995
John Muirheid was born in South Amboy, New Jersey in 1877, received his B.A. from Columbia University in 1900, and his M.A. from Columbia in 1901. He then began teaching at Hobart as an English instructor in September, 1901. He continued teaching English, literature, rhetoric, debate, dramatics, and comparative literature for the next 46 years until his retirement in 1947. His impact as a teacher was recognized early in his career at the Colleges, when in 1908, the Hobart College yearbook was dedicated to him. William Smith students also sang his praises as a teacher “who fostered persistence, concentration, observation, appreciation of the craft of writing, and ultimately, the innate satisfaction of doing it right.” (Alta Essom Boyer-Blohm WS ’36)
There can be little doubt that he was a fine and much-respected teacher. Upon his retirement in 1947, the Alumni News wrote about him, “Since the beginning of the century most students attending those Colleges have profited by his instruction; many have formed enduring friendships with him; for not a few his teaching has laid the foundation of their careers. His courses in composition, in poetry and in Shakespeare have been an inspiration to students in the sciences no less than those in humanities. These students have long held the opinion that no program of study could be complete with at least one course under Professor Muirheid.
His teaching was by no means confined to the classroom, however. Dean Walter Durfee said in the obituary for Professor Muirheid: “For nearly thirty years he lived in Medbury A-1 where he entertained a steady stream of students who went there for advice, or to talk about one’s troubles, or maybe for an emergency loan, or simply to pass the time of day. Most sought him out in order to listen as he talked about books and writers, of poetry and drama and music, of the Colleges, and the town. He was talented actor who performed in the local theater. He enjoyed entertaining by playing the piano and the flute.”
For many years he directed the Colleges’ dramatic productions and had excellent charge of elocution. He frequently addressed students and town assemblies, entertaining them with his wit and wisdom. He was well known as monologist and people eagerly anticipated any opportunity to hear him speak. He also assisted students many times by judging debates and essay contests as well as helping them prepare for debates.
Professor Muirheid never married, but was a well-loved fixture on campus who drew heavily on his extensive European travels and New York theater excursions to enliven his teaching inside the classroom and out. He died in his family home in East Orange, New Jersey in 1956.