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In Memoriam: Robert A. Day

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Professor emeritus helped create UD’s concentration in technical writing

Robert A. Day, 97, professor emeritus of English at the University of Delaware, who was instrumental in the creation of UD’s academic concentration in business and technical writing, passed away on Oct. 19, 2021, after a brief illness.

Known on campus for his good humor and love of jokes, in addition to his teaching skills, “he charmed his students into learning,” said Deborah Andrews, professor emerita of English.

“Bob was a big man with a big heart and a real zest for life,” his family said in a published obituary. “The world will be less fun without him.”​

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Robert Day

​Robert A. Day

Trained as a librarian, Prof. Day worked in that capacity and as an editor and assistant professor at the Institute of Microbiology at Rutgers University and, later, as director of the Library of the College of South Jersey. As managing editor at the American Society for Microbiology, he directed the organization’s publications office for 19 years.

In 1986, after serving as vice president of the Institute for Scientific Information, he joined the faculty of UD’s Department of English, where he taught courses in scientific and technical writing and editing.

He was a former president of the Society for Scholarly Publishing and past chairman of the Council of Biology Editors (now Council of Science Editors). He authored Scientific English: A Guide for Scientists and Other Professionals and How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, which will soon be in its ninth edition and has been translated into many languages.

He is especially remembered at UD for his contributions to the technical writing concentration and for his fun-loving spirit.

“Bob Day joined three of us—Becky Worley, John Brockmann and me—in creating and implementing the concentration in business and technical writing within the English department,” Andrews said. “He loved jokes, writing them down on index cards, and started each class with a joke selected for that day's lecture.”

Robert Bethke, also a retired professor of English, remembered Prof. Day as “a wonderful colleague.”

“I don't recall a day not seeing him with the look of someone enjoying what he did. He carried himself as a dedicated professional, a gentleman, and he helped establish Business and Technical Writing as a strength option within the undergraduate major,” Bethke said. “I had students who spoke of him with admiration and fondness—somewhat a Burl Ives figure in a number of ways, always positive. And, he was good at humorous quips. One remembers certain colleagues as a ‘good man.’ Bob Day, for me, was one of them.”

Prof. Day lived close to campus, and Andrews said his home became a gathering place for colleagues to share meals and holiday celebrations, when he enthusiastically offered tastings from his collection of single-malt Scotches.

“That gusto and a droll kind of energy are what I remember so vividly about times with Bob, all in the context of advancing the teaching of scientific, technical and business writing in the department,” Andrews said. “What a run.”​

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About Robert Day

Prof. Day was born in Belvidere, Illinois, where his family said the Ida Public Library opened the world for him.

After high school, he served in the Army during World War II, then attended the University of Illinois and proposed to Betty Johnson the day after they met. Their marriage lasted until her death 54 years, three children, and five grandchildren later.

He worked at the public library in Newark, New Jersey, while earning a master’s degree in library science at Columbia University and then went on to positions in scientific and technical editing. He joined UD in 1986 and retired at the end of 1999, when he was granted emeritus status in recognition of his work as “a widely respected expert in his field,” the University said.

Prof. Day is survived by his children Nancy Sakaduski (Joe), Barton Day (Sarah) and Robin Hirschhorn and grandchildren Hilary Day, Matthew Sakaduski, Ian Day and Alexandra Hirschhorn.

He requested no funeral, and because he "always wanted to go to medical school," he donated his body to science. His family suggested that contributions in his name may be made to Planned Parenthood or any public library.​

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​​ Article by UDaily staff 

Originally published November 18, 2021​

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