RBS Remembers the Passing of Donald Fry

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Donald Fry on 6 December 2021 in Charlottesville, VA.

In 2007, Don joined Rare Book School’s Board of Directors as the UVA President’s representative—a position he held until January of this year. His tenure distinguishes him as our Board’s longest-serving member.

Throughout his time on the Board, Don served as an essential bridge from the RBS Board to the Office of the President of UVA, working as an enthusiastic and able ambassador and advocate, and as a highly trusted and deeply prized advisor to two RBS Executive Directors, Terry Belanger and Michael Suarez. In 2010, he helped the School meet its NEH matching-fund challenge, adroitly securing the funds that enabled us to make our goal and meet the full match.

A distinguished scholar, author, and educator, Don wrote six books, including a scholarly edition of the Old English Finnsburh Fragment that has been the standard work for nearly half a century, and was co-author of four other books. He taught 15 courses at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Charlottesville, VA, graciously capping his career as a gifted and popular professor of medieval English at UVA and Stony Brook, and then as a teacher of writing and journalism over many years.

Don also worked for some two decades on the Board of the Leifur Eiríksson Foundation, which supports graduate education for Icelanders coming to U.S. universities and Americans going to Icelandic universities, chairing the Foundation’s scholarship committee and serving as a leader in building U.S.–Icelandic relations.

Don and his wife Joan donated to RBS a remarkable collection of 73 incunable leaves, featuring a specimen from Johannes Gutenberg’s Catholicon, as well as works printed on paper or vellum by William Caxton, Simon de Colines, Nicolas Jenson, Aldus Manutius, Christopher Plantin, and Wynkyn de Worde.

“Don Fry always had a spirit of optimism about Rare Book School and its future, and he was always willing to help make that vision a reality!  He wanted us to aim high,” reflected RBS Executive Director Michael Suarez. “I am especially grateful for the ways that Don and his wife Joan were for so many years skillful bridge-builders on behalf of our School, helping us be connected to UVA, and to the local community too.  He will be much missed.”

You can read his full obituary here.