In Memory: Philip Deaver

Rollins says goodbye to Professor Emeritus of English Philip Deaver, whose stories and poems—wrought with memorable characters and quiet humor—delighted readers throughout our community and beyond.

Photo by Scott Cook Photo by Scott Cook

Philip Deaver, professor emeritus of English and former writer-in-residence at Rollins, passed away April 29. He was 71.

Deaver was born in Chicago and grew up in Tuscola, Illinois, the fictionalized version of which provided the setting for many of his short stories. He moved to Florida in 1984 and joined Rollins in 1998 as writer-in-residence and professor of English.

A constant source of praise and support for his creative-writing students, Deaver was a major force in growing the College’s creative-writing program into what it is today. For 10 years, he directed Winter With the Writers, Rollins’ annual literary festival, drawing immense talent like Richard Ford, Ann Beattie, and David Halberstam during his tenure.

Jared Silvia ’12 recalls Deaver’s profound impact on his life. “It was meeting Phil that made me decide to go to Rollins,” says Silvia. “It was studying with him that helped me decide to live my life as a writer, to dedicate myself to it. He was such a great supporter, and I am still, right now, going along on his support of my work, his belief in me. He taught me about writing in stolen time, one of the best lessons I’ve ever learned. I’ll miss him.”

Deaver taught his last class in 2015 before taking a medical leave and eventually retiring in 2017. He returned to campus as part of the 2016 Winter With the Writers season.

In 1986, Deaver won the prestigious Flannery O’Connor Award, which resulted in the publication of his short-story collection Silent Retreats in 1988. Among his many published works are the poetry collection How Men Pray and Forty Martyrs, a collection of nine loosely linked stories that serve as an ode to small towns and Midwestern life.

Deaver also edited Scoring From Second: Writers on Baseball, an anthology of creative nonfiction essays on baseball, and co-edited Orlando Group and Friends, an anthology of Central Florida writing.

A memorial service will be held in Deaver’s honor on Tuesday, May 8, at 11 a.m. in Knowles Memorial Chapel.