Fred McDowell (1915–2009)

Fred McDowellFrederick (Fred) McDowell was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania May 29, 1915, the son of Samson McDowell and Elma Pennypacker. He attended the University of Pennsylvania where he received a B.S. degree in Education in 1937 and an M.A. degree in English in 1938. He began his teaching career before World War II at Washington and Jefferson College, Washington, Pennsylvania and at the University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware. He entered the military service on July 14, 1941 and served in the Quartermaster Corps, United States Army until March 8, 1946 in the United States and the Philippine Islands, in ranks from Private through Major. A graduate of the Command and General Staff College, he was involved in Manila with the logistical planning for the contemplated invasion of Japan. He became Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Army Reserve from which he retired in 1961. As a reserve officer he was active in Command and General Staff studies as a student and instructor.

In 1946 after his discharge from the military he attended Harvard University where he received an M.A. degree in English in 1947 and a Ph.D. degree in English in 1949. He came to the University of Iowa in 1949 and taught in the English Department until his retirement in 1985. Professor McDowell was a specialist in British and American Literature 1830-1950 and was the author of a hundred essays on literary figures from that era. He wrote books on Ellen Glasgow, Caroline Gordon, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, and E.M. Forster, and he was widely known as a critic and scholar of Bernard Shaw. He contributed to numerous journals and books on some of the above writers and on Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, Angus Wilson, Thomas Hardy, W.H. Auden and Robert Penn Warren among others. He was a member of the Modern Language Association of America, the Shaw Society of America, the Joseph Conrad Society, the Ellen Glasgow Society, the D.H. Lawrence Society, and the Virginia Woolf Society and participated in centenary or other celebratory conferences on Ellen Glasgow, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, E.M. Forster, D.H. Lawrence, Robert Penn Warren, Edith Wharton, and Bernard Shaw.

He was a Research Professor six times at the University of Iowa, a Senior Fellow with the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1973-1974, and Fulbright Appointee at the University Paul-Valéry in Montpellier, France in 1980-1981. At his retirement, his colleagues and former graduate students established the Frederick P.W. McDowell Graduate Scholarship Fund to assist graduate students concentrating their studies in one of Professor McDowell’s specialties, British Literature from 1850-1950.

Fred was an avid gardener for many years. He specialized in growing daylilies and at one time he had over 2,000 daylily varieties at his home in Iowa City. As a member of the American Hemerocallis Society, he became an authority on daylilies and was widely known for his expertise. In addition to gardening, Fred’s interests included the performing arts, classical music, opera, theater, reading, film and travel throughout the United States and Europe. After his retirement in 1985, Fred had many opportunities to pursue these interests and get to know his grandchildren.

On May 29, 1953, Fred married Margaret Louise Blaine of Cedar Rapids who became a Professor of Rhetoric and Women’s Studies at the University of Iowa. Fred and Margaret had a very fulfilling marriage of over fifty years. In 2001, they moved to Des Moines, where Fred assisted with Margaret’s health care.

Fred is survived by his children, Steven (Kiahann) of Hazel Crest, Illinois, Gloria Sodt (John) of Bellingham, Washington, Larry (Jane) of Des Moines, Iowa, Katherine McDowell (Ken Lerner) of Portland, Oregon and Elizabeth McDowell-Pepple (Rolf Pepple) of Palm City, Florida; and seventeen grandchildren.

Fred was preceded in death by his wife Margaret, his parents, a brother, Samson and a sister Alice Henning.