Dr. Arnold A. Markley, a longtime English professor at Penn State University, died earlier this month. He was 47.
Markley was diagnosed three years ago with leukemia and died of complications from the disease June 3.
Markley lived in West Philadelphia with his partner of 17 years, Dr. Brian Meyer, and had taught at Penn State Brandywine since 1996.
Born March 29, 1964, in Greenville, S.C., Markley grew up in Athens and later Gainesville in Georgia before moving to Fayetteville, N.C.
His academic successes started when he was young, as he graduated with honors from Fayetteville Academy in 1982, where he served as student-body president.
He attained his bachelor’s degree in English and the classics four years later as part of the honors program at Guilford College before going on to earn his master’s and later doctoral degrees in English, the latter of which focused on 19th-century British literature, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Meyer met Markley in 1994 through a mutual friend when Markley was living in North Carolina. Although Meyer was based in Michigan at the time, the pair kept up a long-distance relationship before moving in together in Philadelphia when Markley accepted the Penn State position.
Markley began as an assistant professor, went on to become an associate professor and later a professor of English, serving as the coordinator of the school’s English department.
Markley’s courses ran the gamut from introductory critical reading to Victorian literature to mythology and everything in between.
No matter the class subject, Markley approached each course with enthusiasm, Meyer said.
“He loved literature, and he loved seeing that little spark that gets turned on when a student would finally get something or would start to appreciate literature in the way he appreciated it,” he said. “It was that ‘aha moment’ that he loved. He was a real people person and was very into engaging people.”
Markley’s passion for teaching did not go unnoticed by his students or his colleagues: In the past decade, his work was recognized by Penn State with such honors as the Madlyn Hanes Faculty Award, the George W. Atheron Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, the Jane E. Cooper Faculty Fellowship and the 2007 Distinguished Teacher of the Year Award.
He has taught courses around the world, including in Italy, Spain, Greece and England.
Markley authored two books, “Stateliest Measure: Tennyson and the Literature of Greece and Rome” and “Conversion and Reform in the British Novel in the 1790s: A Revolution of Opinions,” wrote numerous works in scholarly journals and edited or co-edited four editions of novels by William Godwin, Charlotte Smith, Thomas Holcroft and an unpublished manuscript by Mary Shelley.
Outside the academic realm, Markley volunteered for AIDS Fund and Metropolitan Area Neighborhood Nutritional Alliance and enjoyed biking, gardening and theatergoing.
Although he’d lived in Philadelphia for some time, Meyer said Markley never lost his Southern roots.
“He grew up in the South so he was always very polite and courteous,” he said. “He tried to make people feel good about themselves.”
That attitude stayed with him throughout his illness; two days before he passed, Markley’s colleagues brought him dinner, and he devoted the next night to writing individual thank-you notes for the meal.
He was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008. Meyer said the past three years were harrowing for Markley, as he underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, a bone-marrow transplant from his sister and went into and then came out of remission.
Earlier this year, he spent more than a month in the hospital and six weeks in rehab learning how to walk again.
“He was so sick that he couldn’t walk, but he just pushed on,” Meyer said. “He was bound and determined to walk again, and he did it. He pushed himself in whatever he did, and he accomplished it if he set his mind to it.”
A funeral service was held June 11 at The Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany, where Markley was an active member.
In addition to Meyer, Markley is survived by his mother Julia Dent Markley, sister Mary Holley Markley, father Bill and his wife Cori Markley, grandmother Mary S. Markley, uncles and aunts Joe and Paula Dent and Richard and Meta Markley, mother-in-law Joan Meyer, and sisters- and brothers-in-law Eileen, Greg, Joni, Paul, Beth and Kevin Meyer, in addition to four nephews, numerous cousins and his dog, Bella.
Donations can be made to the Arnold A. Markley Scholarship Fund at Penn State Brandywine, Office of Development, 25 Yearsley Mill Road, Media, PA 19063. Contributions can also be made to the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 555 North Lane, Suite 5010, Conshohocken, PA 19428.