Robert Dilligan, an associate professor emeritus of English, died last Monday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 75.
Dilligan will be remembered for his important work in unifying technology with the humanities. He received his P.h.D from the University of Wisconsin in 1970 and joined USC as an English professor that same year. His fields of expertise were in Victorian poetry and the use of computers for literary research. At the time of his retirement in 2005, he had taught at USC for 36 years.
In addition to his work as a professor, Dilligan served as a director of data processing in the University’s Freshman Writing Program from 1979 to 1985. He also acted as the chair of the University Computing Committee, associate chair of the English department and a member of the editorial board for the journal Computer and the Humanities. He authored 19 books, on topics ranging from poetry to computing.
His colleague Leo Braudy, a professor of English and American literature, spoke about his efforts to integrate computing with the humanities.
“He was a pioneer in connecting literature with computers, and a pioneer in the digital humanities,” Braudy said. “He was a real forerunner.”
Dilligan was awarded a Fulbright Grant in 1977 to research at the National University Computing Center University of Pisa. His daughter Elizabeth Lubin spoke about the memorable times she spent with her family because of their move to Italy.
“That was a very special time for my parents,” Lubin said. “They took us kids to so many museums, and were really immersed in the Italian lifestyle. It was a really special time for our family, and that was possible because of his academic career.”
Outside of the classroom, Dilligan was a gourmet chef, a world traveler and a marathon runner. He was well-known among the English department for dinner parties and poker nights.
“He loved to cook, and so did I. He gave a lot of beautiful dinner parties,” William Brown, associate professor emeritus of English, said. “They had a fairly large dining room, and of course people would spill out into the backyard.”
Dilligan is survived by his three children, Timothy Dilligan, Kathleen Dilligan and Elizabeth Lubin ’90; as well as his three granddaughters, Sarah Lubin, Grace Lubin and Ellie Dilligan.
A memorial has been planned for Feb. 6 at Town & Gown.