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Associate Professor Emeritus of History Melvin Shefftz dies
July 18, 2011Tweet
Melvin Shefftz, 82, associate professor emeritus of history, died Thursday, July 14, after a brief illness. He joined the Binghamton University faculty in 1962, after teaching at Northeastern University, Syracuse University and the University of Michigan. He retired in 2007.
A specialist in British history, he earned his bachelor’s, master’s and PhD degrees from Harvard University. He also taught about the two World Wars, historiography, history through the novel and the Vietnam War.
Active in local politics, Shefftz chaired the local presidential campaign for Eugene McCarthy in 1968 and volunteered for the George McGovern campaign four years later. He also worked to curtail the nuclear arms race and engaged in activities to affirm the State of Israel’s right to live peacefully within secure borders.
Robin Oggins, associate professor emeritus of history, first met Shefftz in 1962, when they were both hired by Binghamton. He recalled one time in particular when Shefftz came to his rescue: “In the summer of 1969, Mel was completing a sabbatical in London when we arrived to start mine,” said Oggins. “We thought we had rented a house—even enrolling our kids in the local school—but that abruptly fell through. Mel and Claire put us in touch with their landlady who quickly found us a lovely flat. When Mel and Claire left to return home they gave us their sheets and towels, a gift much appreciated when the endless stream of house guests began to arrive.”
Shefftz could be passionate about his beliefs, said Oggins. “He strongly opposed the Vietnam war long before it was fashionable to do so and, even before he got tenure, always spoke freely and frankly at faculty meetings,” he said.
Shefftz was also an inveterate reader,” he added. “One English friend recounted with wonder how she had seen Mel reading a newspaper while crossing one of north London’s busiest streets.
“He had a vast store of knowledge which he shared freely with his friends, his classes and with the small groups of bright students I often found him talking to when I dropped by his office,” said Oggins.
Shefftz was an avid skier as well as tennis player. He continued skiing until just shy of his 75th birthday and took great pride in teaching his two sons how to ski – one was named for many years to the New York State junior race team, and the other was a NCAA race coach for many years.
He is survived by his wife Claire, sister, Barbara, sons and daughters-in-law, Jonathan and Andrea, and Benjamin and Amy, and one granddaughter, Micayla.
Donations in his memory may be made to Temple Israel, the Binghamton Jewish Community Center, the Jewish Federation of Greater Binghamton and Lourdes Hospital Foundation in-patient hospice. Arrangements for the family were directed by the DeMunn Funeral Home. To forward condolences, visit www.demunnfh.com.