W. Bruce Finnie, Ph.D.
March 6, 1934 - February 18, 2021
Professor emeritus in the English department at the University of Delaware, recognized for his excellence in teaching, and known for his widely used textbook on the English language, Dr. Finnie died at home on Thursday, February 18, 2021, after a short illness.
During his career at the University, 1965-2000, he introduced and taught a variety of courses in medieval literature and linguistics. He won several teaching awards and is remembered on the Mentors Circle on campus. He authored several books, including The Stages of English, and numerous articles in his field. He served as Director of Graduate Studies in English for six years and for a shorter time as Acting Graduate Director in the linguistics department where he held a joint appointment. He directed several doctoral dissertations and taught many Delaware English teachers.
He was a member of the Modern Language Association of America, the Mediaeval Academy of America, the American Dialect Society, and the American Name Society. He served as a peer review reader for “The Chaucer Review” and as a member of the editorial board of “Names: Journal of the American Name Society.” At various times he did research in the library of the British Museum in London, where he lived for a time and often visited, and in 1972-73 taught at the Universitat Gesamthochscule in Essen, Germany. A retired captain in the Air Force Reserves, he earned his wings as a navigator in 1956 and flew as a weapons controller during the Cold War out of Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. He was also trained as an intercept controller. Much later in Delaware, he served for a number of years on the Board of Directors at Limen House, a halfway house in Wilmington for people in recovery. A long-time member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Newark, he served on the vestry, headed various ministries, and was active on the liturgy guild as a lay sub-deacon, lector, chalice bearer, and Eucharistic Minister. He was one of several worship leaders who officiated at Evening Prayer for almost 40 years.
The things that meant the most to Bruce were spending time with those he loved, like having Saturday breakfasts with his daughter, Allison, drinking coffee in the study with his son, David, visiting tourist sites in London with Bruce Jr., celebrating Christmas Eve at his home with the three of them and his grandchildren, and eating out with his friends. He enjoyed classical music and for many years subscribed to the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. He loved the beach, traveling, and working in his yard.
Warner Bruce Finnie was born near Batesville, Mississippi, March 6, 1934. He attended school there and in Akron, Ohio. He received a B.A. in English in 1955 from the University of Akron, an M.A. from Columbia University, magna cum laude, in 1960, and a Ph.D. from The Ohio State University in 1965, where he had been an instructor before moving to Delaware.
He is survived by his former wife of 23 years, Nancy Evans Finnie of Newark, his children, David of Fairborn, OH, Allison Archangelo of Newark, Bruce Jr. (Laura) of Pittsburgh, and also by nine grandchildren, Michael, Megan (Lance), Heather, Rebecca, Hannah, Ryan Bruce, Ashlie, Tara (Willy), and Brett, as well as three great grandchildren, Mara, Penelope, and Oliver, and by his foster son, Steven Erli of Magnolia, DE.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Howard and Mary of Akron, OH, formerly of Panola County, MS, and by his stepmother Donna of Akron, formerly of Meridian, MS.
To celebrate his life, family and friends are invited to a visitation from 12 noon until 1 pm on Saturday, February 27, 2021, at Thomas Episcopal Church, 276 South College Avenue, Newark, DE 19711, followed by a requiem Eucharist at 1 pm. Face masks will be required for all in attendance. Interment will be held in St. Thomas Cemetery, 58 West Delaware Avenue, Newark, DE.
To sign up to attend Bruce’s service in person, please click here.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Bruce’s name to St. Thomas Parish or to Limen House, both in care of Spicer-Mullikin Funeral Homes and Crematory, 121 West Park Place, Newark, DE 19711.