George Alan Clugston

George Alan Clugston, of Aurora, NY, died at the age of 93 ½ on Wednesday October 12, of multiple medical conditions.  Known to all as Alan, he was robust and natty up to the end.

He was a world traveler, a limericist, an opera lover, a theatergoer both locally and in London, a Shakespearean scholar, a singer, an actor, a great friend of science, a raconteur, a pecan pie baker, and a great friend to many.  And most importantly, he was a beloved teacher to generations of Wells College students.

Given Alan Clugston’s magnetic personality it’s not surprising students were drawn to him and remember him fondly. “He changed my life’” one former student said. He was a jovial, outgoing person, yet his classes were surprisingly formal. He made a point of closing the classroom door before class began, as if to seal off the irrelevant outside world, and he referred to students by last name—Miss Smith, Miss Jones. Yet he was humorous and witty in much of his teaching: his class on reading Elizabethan Language, “Bill and Jim” focused on Shakespeare and the King James Bible. He taught the elementary college writing class and advanced classes in English literature, his course on Shakespeare being a favorite of students lucky enough to enroll in it. His annual January class on London Theater was special, in which the group attended and discussed as many as 15-20 plays in three weeks. Students loved it. In part students loved Alan because he was a faithful attender of their recitals, plays and other activities beyond the classroom. As one former student said, “He was a brilliant professor and maybe a little bit of a rascal. Proud to have known him.”

He was born in Boulder CO in 1929, lived for a time in Northfield MN, and spent his youth in Conway AR.  Upon the untimely death of his father in 1940, the family moved to Washington DC, where he attended Woodrow Wilson High School.  He then graduated from Harvard University with a degree in History, and went on to earn his Master’s and Ph.D. in English from the University of Michigan.   Before arriving in Aurora in 1963, where he rose to Professor of English at Wells College, he taught for several years at Duke.  He retired from Wells in 1998 but did not slow down, regularly spending January in his wonderful Notting Hill Gate flat for London’s West End theater, and Chebeague Island ME for summer stints at his beloved Aunt Kate Clugston’s cottage. 

He is survived by his sister Helen (Ginger) Coon and her husband Hayden Coon of Sebago ME; nephews Jonathan Coon and his wife Julie of Barrington, RI and their children Theodore and Evelyn; Stephen Coon and his partner Ruth Drage of Middleton, WI; Peter Coon and Kumiko Yamada of Palo Alto, CA, and their child Alan George; niece Janet McClaugherty and her husband Hoge of Midlothian, VA, and their children Scott, Laura, Melissa (Wells 2019), and Charlie; several cousins; special friends Scott Heinekamp and Tom Vawter.  He was predeceased by his father, Philemon Rittenhouse Clugston, his mother Katharine Woods Clugston, a brother John David Clugston who died in infancy, and aunt Katharine (Kate) Clugston (Wells 1912).

With his resonant voice and flair for the dramatic, Alan organized and emceed for many years annual limerick contests at the Fargo restaurant in Aurora. He performed in multiple Merry-Go-Round musical productions, was a member of the Masterworks Chorale, and acted in all manner of other local stage productions. As an honored member of Free and Accepted Masons (Scipio Lodge #110), he held every lofty office and his gift for memorization served him well in those capacities.

A celebration of his life will take place on October 29, 2022, at 2 pm, at United Ministries of Aurora (337 Main St), to be followed by a remembrance reception in the Art Exhibit Room, Macmillan Hall, on the Wells College campus, at 3:30. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to Wells College, and may be earmarked if so desired to the Kate Clugston Prize Fund.