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Professor Emeritus T. Alan Broughton Dies at Age 76

T. Alan Broughton.
T. Alan Broughton.

English Professor Emeritus T. Alan Broughton, 76, died May 17 at Vermont Respite House in the company of his family.

A novelist, poet and short story writer, Broughton taught writing and literature for 35 years at the University of Vermont, from 1966 to 2001, chairing the English Department and developing and directing the Writers' Workshop Program, still in existence today. That program brings working writers to campus for readings and master classes; its most recent guest in April 2013: Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Diaz.

As a writer, Broughton was recognized nationally, with awards and fellowships including the prestigious Guggenheim and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and his work was selected for inclusion in the O'Henry Awards and Best American Poetry anthologies. He traveled as a cultural representative under the auspices of the State Department's United States Information Agency to southeast Asia, Egypt and to Italy, a country he'd visited many times over the course of his life and that figured prominently in his writing.

The New York Times wrote of his 1980 novel Winter Journey, which takes place in Rome: "Not the least of Mr. Broughton's accomplishments is to seize material we had thought to be worn out, used up, discarded, replaced -- by a newer model of artistry, the ironic grimace -- and make it somehow lyrical all over again. Craft counts."

In his early years in the English Department, Broughton noticed an uptick in the interest in writing poetry among students. "Dylan Thomas and the beat poets brought poetry down into the street, out of the clouds," he told a campus publication in 1972. That was an accessibility he believed in.

Born in 1936 in Bryn Mawr, Pa., he was educated at Exeter, Harvard and at Julliard as a classical pianist, ultimately receiving his bachelor's degree at Swarthmore. He told the Burlington Free Press in a 2001 article that the discipline he acquired at Julliard he took with him to the writing process. He received his master's in English literature from the University of Washington.

He was the author of four novels, A Family Gathering (1977), Winter Journey (1980), The Horsemaster (1981) and Hob's Daughter (1984); two collections of short stories, The Jesse Tree (1975) and Suicidal Tendencies (2003); and nine collections of poetry, Adam’s Dream (1975), In the Face of Descent (1975), The Others We Are (1979), Far From Home (1979), Dreams Before Sleep (1982), Preparing to Be Happy (1988), In The Country of Elegies (1995), The Origin of Green (2001) and A World Remembered (2010).

He is survived by his wife, Laurel Broughton, who also taught in the English Department, and by three children and five grandchildren. A celebration of his life will be held at Trinity Church, Shelburne, Saturday, May 25, at 11 a.m. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to Vermont Respite House or Kids on the Ball, c/o the King Street Youth Center.

Read a poem from A World Remembered, "The Old Orchard," reprinted in Vermont Quarterly in 2010.