Professor of English
September 21, 1991
Milton Haight Turk was born in Norwalk, Connecticut, in 1866. He was graduated from Columbia University in 1886, then attended the Universities of Strasberg, Berlin, and Leipzig from 1886-1889. In 1889, he received the A.M. and Ph.D. degrees from Leipzig. His honorary degrees included a Litt.D. from Columbia in 1929 and an LL.D. from Hobart in 1938.
He was a member of the Hobart and William Smith Colleges faculty for 48 years, first as Horace White Professor of English from 1890-1924 and then as Beverly Chew Professor of English Language and Literature from 1924-1938. Turk “moved the English courses into a higher literary plane...including an introduction to Moby Dick, which few English departments then sanctioned.”
In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he served as secretary of the faculty from 1890-1907 and registrar at Hobart College from 1903-1907. He then became the first dean of William Smith College, a position he held until 1915. From 1915-1925, he was the Colleges’ librarian and then served as dean of Hobart College from 1925-1938.
Professor Turk authored a fascinating history of Hobart College entitled Hobart: The Story of a Hundred Years (1922). In it, he captured not only the major events and crisis of Hobart’s first 100 years, but he also reflected the commitment and loyalty that faculty members, students, and administrators had to Hobart and the young William Smith. Turk also delivered Hobart’s Centennial Address.
The New York Times said of him: “Dr. Turk, who was said to have known more Hobart men than any other living person, was a popular figure on the campus during the 48 years he spent on the faculty. Even at the age of 71, the year before he retired, he strode along with a spring in his step and a sparkle in his eye. His long association with undergraduates had given him an almost uncanny sense of perception and understanding of the undergraduate mind. An authority of the English language and literature, he held that English is living language and must grow and change.”
Milton Haight Turk died in Jacksonville, Florida, on May 28, 1949, in his eighty-second year.