A photo of W. Bruce Finnie, Ph.D.

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.

Any family members or friends who are unable to attend Bruce’s service can live stream the service by clicking here or by visiting the St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church YouTube channel 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.

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23 Guestbook messages for W. Bruce Finnie, Ph.D.

  • bruce……bless you

  • We all will miss this great person and friend. Unfortunately I can not be at the service since I will be playing for a funeral at the same time. My prayers are with the family. God bless and take care.

  • Allison, sorry to read of your father’s passing.How fortunate it is to have had a loving and accomplished dad. My thoughts are with you and your family

  • David, Bruce and Allison – so sorry about the passing of your Father. May God hold each of you especially close, and grant His Peace to be yours.

  • Papa Bruce—you leave behind a legacy of generosity and family who loves each other no matter the circumstances. We are personally grateful for the chance to have known you and your family for a few years at Rehobeth Beach. May God bless your transition from this life to the next. Love, the Floyds

  • Bruce was an unfailing friend–unfailingly kind, unfailingly generous and thoughtful. I will not forget his warm eyes.
    I was glad to have been a friend in the department for many years.
    Fleda Brown

  • I have many warm memories of my friendship with this good and kind man from our early years together in the UD English Department. I am so very glad his family was able to be with him during his final days—a gift not just to him but, I am sure, to all of them.

  • My late wife earned her Masters degree in English where Dr. Finnie chaired the committee that granted final approval for her work toward that degree. She was so thankful for his kind but strict evaluation he submitted to the others on that committee. Let me extend my deepest condolences to each family member as you share memories and honor his legacy.

  • Allison,

    I don’t know if you remember me, but I taught math to your son Michael and I believe your daughter Megan. I am so terribly sorry to hear of Bruce’s passing- he was always so kind to my children- Aidan loved talking with him – he’s now 15 and he could always make my daughter (who is autistic) smile. I am praying for your entire family during this difficult time.

    Sincerely,
    Stephanie Prendergast (aka Mrs. P)

  • Bruce was a brilliant, funny, and caring man. He touched so many people in his life. I will be forever grateful for our friendship. I am so glad his last days were spent surrounded by the people he loved the most, his family. Bruce was so proud of his children and grandchildren which meant more to him than any accolade he earned during his illustrious career. I will miss him very much.

  • I was saddened by the news of Bruce. He was such a gentlemen, always with the best words. My deepest sympathy to his Family. He will be missed by his friends. Terry Kile, Newtown Sq. PA

  • He was a special, generous-hearted man. I’ve loved all your family for many years and will not be stopping anytime soon.

  • Former UD English Department colleague, Bruce and I were good friends over many years. We tended to share in viewpoints at many faculty meetings–bonding, in its way–and I enjoyed teaching students who overlapped and referenced “Dr. Finnie” with caring regard in their talk and work. I have elsewhere said more, but Bruce would likely appreciate a little brevity here from me.
    Bob Bethke
    UD English Dept. 1971-1990

  • Although I didn’t know Mr.Finnie, I’m very sorry for your loss.
    Lisa Ciconte (Davis)

  • Dr. Finnie is one of the reasons I love teaching British literature to high school students. Prayers for him and his family. May he Rest In Peace.

  • Bruce’s gentle and reflective spirit will be well remembered. His smile was comforting, yet reflected a subtle ornery playfulness. I wish Bruce’s family comfort in knowing that he was so fondly thought of and that his stories are shared treasures.

  • My heart is heavy with sadness for the loss of such incredible man. Bruce was my mom’s (i.e., Beverly Sockwell) first cousin. She always spoke so highly of Bruce. I came to know Bruce later in my mom’s life. After she passed, Bruce and I would talk on the phone. He was always so kind and I always enjoyed our conversations which I will miss. I know he and my mom are now reunited in heaven with the Lord and others who have gone home before them.

    My prayers go out to all of Bruce’s family; the world has lost a great man but heaven has gained a good soul.

    Love and Prayers,
    Kim Schramm

  • Bruce excelled at being the kind of teacher, mentor, and friend that we should all strive to be. My thoughts are with his family, friends, and colleagues at this sad time. Peace.

  • Charles & I wish to express our sincere sympathy to the entire Finnie family. Our hearts go out to you. We ask God at this time to grant comfort, peace and strength. Love & hugs, Charles & Sherry Morgan, Washington, PA

  • May you rest in eternal peace, my friend. You were my wonderful mentor and colleague. You showed me and my family unwavering kindness and true friendship over half a century. I am sure you will continue to do the same with all the saints in glory.

  • Bruce is a wonderful and inspirational friend and mentor. It was bittersweet, but I was happy to see him during his final days surrounded by his family.

  • I am so sorry about your loss. I am Horace Finnie’s grand-daughter ( Howard’s brother). I was going through my grandparent’s old things and found a lot of old cards from Uncle Howard, as well as Bruce and family. If any of you would like them, I will be happy to mail them to you. Will be praying for all of the family.

  • Dr. Finnie was one of my favorite teachers at Delaware. His passion and enthusiasm made learning a difficult subject matter a delight. How nice to see that he had such a varied and well-rounded life outside of the classroom. My condolences to his family for the loss of this interesting and sensitive man.