Donald C. Mell Obituary

November 18, 2019


Dr. Donald C. Mell, Jr.


Wilmington - Dr. Donald C. Mell, Jr. died on November 9, 2019, in Wilmington, Delaware, surrounded by his family, following a short illness.


A professor of English literature at the University of Delaware for 47 years, Don was a dedicated teacher who loved lively discourse and the exchange of ideas. He was the truest form of a gentleman and a scholar.


Don's accomplishments were many, but it was his character, gentleness, and engaging personality that touched everyone he encountered. His unassuming demeanor, respect for others, and genuine delight in the collective pursuit of knowledge made him a singular individual.


Don was born in May 1931 in Akron, Ohio to Donald Charles and Josephine Seiberling Mell. As a child, he attended Old Trail School, and then Western Reserve Academy, graduating in 1949.


He attended Yale University, where he earned his B.A. in 1953. Upon graduation, he served his country in Korea as an Army PFC from 1953-55.


Don returned to Yale to earn a M.A.T. in 1956, and M.A. in 1959. He was then accepted to the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed his Ph.D. in 1961.


It was during his undergraduate years at Yale when he developed his love of music, especially the organ, studying under the prolific German composer Paul Hindemith. For a fleeting moment, he entertained the idea of a career in music, and even performed once with the Cleveland Chamber Symphony.


Also, at Yale Don was an accomplished student-athlete, playing varsity soccer and was recognized with the All-Ivy Postseason Award. His "soccer buddies" were an important part of his life and Don remained close to his college teammates for decades to come.


Don loved spending summers on Cape Cod, having learned to sail as a young man at the Cape Cod Sea Camps (Monomoy 1945-46).


Before moving to Delaware, Don taught English at Middlebury College (1965-68) and Rutgers University (1961-65).


Arriving on campus at Delaware in the fall of 1968, Don's gentle nature quickly endeared him to faculty, staff and students, alike. At his core, he was warm, kind and humble. He loved academia, and at UD he thrived.


Don briefly went back into government service at the National Endowment for the Humanities as a Program Officer in the Division of Research Programs during 1993-94.


Don's role as chairperson of the University of Delaware Press Board of Editors from 1997-2015 was perhaps the most fulfilling of all his intellectual pursuits. He cherished the collaboration with board members and Press staff.


Don regularly and enthusiastically supported the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies and the Modern Language Association throughout his career. Participating in academic conferences was a thrill for Don, and he made lifelong friends across the country with his understated temperament and good humor.


Don wrote two books, edited four others, and published 15 articles and 28 reviews. His distinctions also include several fellowships, literary prizes, and grants. Don was a member of the Cosmos Club of Washington D.C. and the Yale Club of New York City.


Don is survived by his wife of 62 years, Katherine Lyon Mell, his son, Donald C. Mell, III of Wilmington (Jeanne), and his daughter, Elizabeth of Chester Springs, PA. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Marvin M. and Francis S. "Skip" Mell.


A memorial service to celebrate his life will take place at Christ Church Christiana Hundred at 11:00 a.m. on Friday, November 22.


In lieu of flowers, the Mell family requests that donations in Don's memory be given to the Future Fund of the East Central American Society for 18th Century Studies (EC/ASECS) which will provide scholarship opportunities to graduate students. Payments can be made online with the Future Fund Donate button at: or by check to "Future Fund c/o Dr. Staffel, P.O. Box 52, Bethany WV, 26032."


For online condolences, please visit


Published in The News Journal from Nov. 15 to Nov. 18, 2019

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