For nearly 30 years Irving Deer held the roles of professor, associate dean and chairman at USF. And in between those roles, he helped found the religious studies and mass communications department.
Earlier this month, the retired USF professor and former associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences died of cancer.
He was 78.
Deer, who once served as the chairman of the English department, was known to continuously introduce new ideas at the university.
David Pringle, a colleague of Deer’s in the English department for more than 20 years, said Deer was always energetic and added a new perspective to conversations.
“Irv loved a new question,” Pringle said in Deer’s eulogy. “Irving Deer with a new question was like a small child with a new toy.”
Pringle said Deer had an open mind while teaching courses at the university. He would design his graduate courses in a way that allowed the students to come up with their own inquiries, which left them “delightfully surprised, confused, chagrined and more knowledgeable by the end of the semester,” Pringle said in his tribute.
As associate dean, Deer’s interest in gaining knowledge led him to push for the inclusion of subjects, such as film, popular culture, rhetoric and critical theory in the English curriculum.
“He campaigned vigorously for the expansion of the College and pushed hard for the establishment of new departments to better meet the changing needs of the student body,” Pringle said.
During his life, Deer also explored many other duties. In 1981, he served as president for the Popular Culture Association in the South/American Culture Association, an organization for scholars with the same interests in instruction.
The academic study of popular culture was of exceptional interest to Deer. He and his wife Harriet were pioneers in the area, co-editing The Popular Arts: A Critical Reader, the first-ever collection of scholarly essays for use in pop culture studies. Other books they compiled were Selves: Drama in Perspective which is an analytical look at the works of Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Arthur Miller, and Languages in the Mass Media: Reading in Analysis; and Person to Person: Rhetoric, Reality and Change.
His wife Harriet also taught with Deer during his tenure at USF.
“The two of them together had a remarkable rapport, a wide-ranging set of interests, and a vast knowledge of culture, politics, and the arts,” Pringle said.
Deer and his wife Harriett were married for nearly 50 years. At USF, they also founded scholarships such as the Harriet and Irving Deer Award for Excellence in Literature and Contemporary Culture.
There is currently a memorial scholarship being established in Deer’s name.