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In memorium: Jeremy "Jerry" Mulderig

Stained glass
(DePaul University/Jamie Moncrief)
Jeremy P. "Jerry" Mulderig, a DePaul professor for more than 25 years and former chair of DePaul's Department of English, died peacefully on March 7 from complications related to cancer. He was 69.

Mulderig was born in Kingston, PA, in 1950, the first child of Gerald A. and Mary F. Mulderig. He graduated second in his class of 1968 from Central Catholic High School in Kingston and entered the University of Scranton that fall, ultimately declaring a double major in English and German. He was editor of "The Aquinas," the university's student newspaper. He also was a resident assistant in his third and fourth years, perhaps his first role in positively influencing the lives of students. 

In 1972, Mulderig was named a Fellow in the Fulbright Program; shortly after his graduation summa cum laude from the university, he moved to Germany for a one-year program of postgraduate study at the University of Cologne. He traveled extensively during the 1972-73 year, beginning his lifelong appreciation of worldwide cultural diversity. In 1973, he entered the English doctoral program at Ohio State University, from which he received his Ph.D. in 1978. What followed was a distinguished 40-year career of scholarship and teaching in the areas of rhetoric and writing, 19th-century literature and biography, and LGBTQ literature.

 Jeremy Mulderig
Jeremy Mulderig. (Image courtesy of Maureen Mulderig)

Mulderig's college-level teaching career began at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa, in 1978. He quickly earned a reputation as a dedicated teacher and colleague, and thus began to grow what would become a community of devoted students from around the country. He taught at Oakland University in 1981-82, then moved to the Newcomb College of Tulane University in 1982. He continued his career as a celebrated teacher over the next six years at Newcomb/Tulane, earning accolades from students and academic colleagues alike, while specializing in academic courses in language, writing, and rhetoric, a program which he was instrumental in designing and implementing in the Department of English. He served as associate dean of Newcomb College from 1984-86, overseeing the office that monitored student progress and provided academic advising and assistance to Newcomb students.

In 1988, Mulderig accepted a position as associate professor in the Department of English at DePaul University, where he would spend a quarter century as a scholar, administrator and teacher. He served as director of First-Year Writing - 1997-2000; 2004-05 - and director of the Master of Arts in Writing Program in its first year, 1989-90. He was a three-time recipient of NEH Summer Seminar grants. From 1990-97, Mulderig was chair of the department.

In the summer of 2000, Mulderig participated in the university's faculty-staff development tour of Greece and Turkey, which allowed him to visit sites associated with his academic focus on classical rhetoric. With his colleague Warren Schultz, he subsequently developed a short-term study-abroad program in Istanbul; he studied Turkish in the summer of 2002 and co-led the study-abroad program in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2012.

Among many honors, Mulderig received an Excellence in Teaching award in 2000 and served as the keynote speaker at that year's honors convocation. In 2004, in recognition of his scholarship and teaching, he was named to the prestigious Society of Vincent de Paul Professors, in the first cohort to earn that distinction; and upon his retirement in 2014, he was awarded the university's highest honor, the Via Sapientiae.

A truly gifted writer, Mulderig was the author of many published academic research papers and of multiple editions of "The Heath Handbook." In the last five years of his life, he published two books with The University of Chicago Press, editing and annotating the writings of Samuel Steward. The first of these, "Philip Sparrow Tells All," was widely reviewed, including in "The New York Times." The second, "The Lost Autobiography of Samuel Steward," was launched in April 2018 to high acclaim from both popular and academic reviewers, including a review in the "London Review of Books" published weeks before his death.

In 2003, Mulderig returned to Germany for the first time since his 1972-73 academic residency, and he was awed by the dramatic changes in the nation—and especially in its restored capital, Berlin—over the previous thirty years. He established a second home in Berlin in 2004 and subsequently enjoyed splitting his time nearly equally between Chicago and Berlin, and between his communities of friends in Germany and the United States. Even after his cancer diagnosis in late 2017, he traveled extensively, visiting friends and family while exploring new places and enjoying the comfort of favorite familiar ones, including three trips to his Berlin residence.

A lover of history and an architecture enthusiast, Mulderig served for 25 years as a docent with the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and he offered lectures on elements of the city's architectural history on many occasions throughout those years. 

Mulderig is survived by a loving family: his brother Bob Mulderig and sister-in-law Karen Garman, and nephew and niece Patrick and Emily Mulderig; and sister Maureen Mulderig and brother-in-law Michael Johnson; and step-niece and -nephew Jennifer and Bryan Johnson. Equally important, he is survived by a community of hundreds of devoted former students, academic colleagues and friends throughout the nation and around the world, many of whom have offered testimony to the significant role Jeremy Mulderig played in their lives. His impact on this world was profound; and he is, and will be, dearly missed.

Family and friends are planning a memorial service to be held in Chicago later this year. Gifts in Mulderig's memory may be made to the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation or DePaul University.