School 09

William M. Curtin

March 19, 1927 ~ March 20, 2021 (age 94)


William M. Curtin of Storrs died on March 20, 2021 at the age of 94. He was born March 19, 1927 in New York City to Bridget Curtin (nee Walsh) and Martin William Curtin, the second of 4 children. His siblings were Thomas Curtin, Margaret Overland, and Joseph Curtain (a spelling error in the hospital). He was raised in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.

Bill attended Queen of Angels Parochial School and St. Francis Prep High School in Brooklyn. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in March of 1945 and was still in training on V-J day. He received his honorable discharge in October of 1945, and the G.I. Bill helped him attend St. John’s University (which was then in Brooklyn), graduating in 1949, and Columbia University, where he received a Master's Degree in Literature in 1952. He taught at Georgetown University from 1952- 1954, then went to the University of Wisconsin Madison for his Doctorate in Literature, receiving his PhD in 1960. 

While at the University of Wisconsin he met and married Mary Esther Beckman of Wausau, Wisconsin. Their children are Mary Ellen Curtin (born 1956) and Martin Curtin (born 1958). He was in the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana English Department from 1958-1969. He spent his 1964-65 sabbatical year in Aix-en-Provence, France. He was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to teach at the University of Dijon, France, for the academic year 1968-69. He received another Fulbright scholarship at the University of Upsala, Sweden, 1977; in 1984 he was involved in a faculty exchange program going to the University of Bayreuth, Germany. After retirement he returned to do 2 lecturing tours of Europe. In 1969 he joined the English Department at the University of Connecticut, where he stayed until his retirement in January 1991.

Dr. Curtin had one particularly important piece of scholarship- The World and the Parish- about the development of the thought of Willa Cather. He was one of the founders of The Connecticut Writers Project in the early 1980's, helping high school teachers teach composition, and continued this work after his official retirement. He was a generous mentor for his students, a supportive colleague to his peers, a dynamic presenter in the classroom. 

Bill was a faithful member and leader in the parish of St. Thomas Aquinas in Storrs, often attending both Sunday and weekday Masses. He was a frequent member of the Parish Council and one of its first Presidents.  He was a lector on the weekends. He was deeply involved in selecting speakers for the Loyola Colloquium- a series inviting Catholic Scholars to make presentations to the parish and the larger University community. 

Bill was a treasure to his family. He was an endless source of stories and a trove of family history. He was funny and sometimes corny. He was a good son to his mother and endeared himself to his in-laws Albert and Esther Beckman. He was a faithful brother walking each of his siblings home in their last days and embraced the chance to be there for his nieces Patty Overland, Jean Verrechio, Peggy Ellen, Cynthia Danes, and Melissa Gatthes Curtin.

He was a doting grandfather to his two granddaughters, Elizabeth and Eleanor Goldgar. Bill is both rock and joy for his children Mary Ellen Curtin of Hopewell, NJ., and Martin Curtin OFM Cap. (currently in Middletown, CT). He was a partner in joy and tenderness, in gardening, in open-hearted sociability, and in robust intellectual conversation to his wife of 65 years, Mary. Theirs was both a supremely real and grounded marriage but also a model and ideal for others.

Funeral Services will take place on Friday, April 9th with a Mass of the Resurrection at St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel in Storrs at 1:15pm and burial service to follow at Storrs Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to St Thomas Aquinas Church, The Province of St. Mary of the Capuchin Order, Windham Area Interfaith Ministries (, or the National Willa Cather Center at


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Funeral Mass
April 9, 2021

1:15 PM
St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel
46 N. Eagleville Rd.
Storrs, CT 06268

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