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Obituary for Michael Neill Stanton

Michael Neill  Stanton
Michael N. Stanton

COLCHESTER - Michael N. Stanton, 73, of Colchester, died on Dec. 15, 2011 at Fletcher Allen Health Care following a short battle with pancreatic cancer and a related infection.

Mike had a wonderful combination of intellectual prowess, practicality, and appreciation for the talents of those around him. His flawless memory served him well, whether it was skipping the third grade at the Park Street School in Essex Jct., tracking orders at an early job at GE in Burlington, understanding Tolkien's maze of character entanglements in "Lord of the Rings", or recalling significant historical dates/events long before the age of instant Google answers. Combine a sharp intellect, an uncanny memory, hard work, and a bit of good luck, and the result was a BA from the University of Vermont, a PhD from the University of Rochester, and a 30+ year career as an English professor at UVM.

Mike's intellect was complemented by modesty, good humor, life experience, and his understated way of looking at things. He learned a great deal about people from his early jobs at the original Al's French Frys in Essex Jct, at GE Burlington, and as a high school teacher in Fair Haven. Through these experiences, he learned that beyond a certain basic point, a person's level of education has little or nothing to do with a person's level of intelligence. Mike's three years of service in the Army, including deployment to Korea, exposed him to a wide range of people and taught him the value and advantages of college.

He became Professor Stanton at UVM in 1971. Mike’s scholarly background was in early Romantic literature. He wrote his dissertation on the English poet Robert Southey, and he retained a deep interest in the Romantics and also the Victorian writers throughout his career. However, from the outset, Mike had a passion for the literature of fantasy and science fiction. He inaugurated a course on both genres which was always overenrolled, and became one of the most popular courses in the English Department and indeed the university. He became an expert on the work of J.R.R. Tolkien, and in 2001 published a well-received book entitled Hobbits, Elves, and Wizards: Exploring the Wonders and Worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien’s "The Lord of the Rings." Its success led to his leading several "Lord of the Rings" tours to New Zealand, where the 2001-2003 movie version of the fantasy was filmed.

Mike was not only a scholar but also a very fine teacher, dedicated to his students, always prepared, always open to what would be of interest to succeeding generations of young people. His passion for literature was evident, understated but sincere, and he never patronized students or made them feel that they were unworthy of his attention. In return, generations of students were dedicated to him and kept in touch with him over the years. He was an important part of the English department team. He had many close friends on the faculty, and no enemies.

Mike was born on July 25, 1938 to Tom and Genevieve (Neill) Stanton of Essex Junction, VT. He spent his youth on River Street, the son of the village "ice man" who provided ice cut from the Winooski River. His surviving siblings are: Sylvia Weinhagen of South Burlington, Larry Stanton of South Burlington, and Cathy Stanton of Carmel Valley, California. His three nephews are: John Bergin of Seattle, Washington, Robert Frydenlund of Swanton, and Alex Weinhagen of Westford. We all hoped for many more years with Mike than we were granted.

A gathering of remembrance will be held at 2pm on Wednesday, December 21, at the John Dewey Lounge in the Old Mill building on the University of Vermont campus. Friends, colleagues, and family will gather to talk, laugh, and share a few stories to celebrate a life well lived. In lieu of flowers, send donations in Mike's honor to the Friends of the Burnham Library, 898 Main Street, Colchester, VT 05446. This obituary can be viewed and comments made online at - click on "Online Condolences".

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