Longtime faculty member M. Thomas Hester, a professor of English and a leading scholar of 17th-century English poet John Donne, died Feb. 8 from complications of dementia. He was 78.
In a career spanning four decades, Hester won numerous awards for teaching and scholarship, including an Outstanding Teaching Award, an Alumni Distinguished Professorship and an Outstanding Research Award. He was the author or editor of eight books and numerous essays on Donne, and he served as a founding member of the John Donne Society. Hester was also co-founder and co-editor of the John Donne Journal.
He embraced life with passion and exuberance, according to his daughter, Claire.
“He was a speed demon on the road, whether he was driving his Honda motorcycle in the ’60s, his precious Porsche 911 in the ’90s or even the family Volvo station wagon,” she said. “He ran track, raced motorcycles and played rugby, basketball and tennis. He broke many bones in the process, but he always got back up.”
Hester was born on July 22, 1941, in Owensboro, Kentucky. He received a bachelor’s degree from Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, in 1963 and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Florida in 1972.
He served on faculty in the Department of English at NC State from 1971 until his retirement in 2013.
Hester was predeceased by his wife, Grace, in 2009. His family wishes to express gratitude to his guardian, Kim Cannan, and his longtime caregiver, Joannetta Reid, for their support during the last few years of his life.
A funeral service will be held at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, at Church of the Nativity, 8849 Ray Road, Raleigh.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to be made in Hester’s honor to Church of the Nativity, the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration and Transitions LifeCare Hospice. Read the full obituary online.