DSU mourns renowned professor

Photo courtesy of Olga Pilkington.

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Ace Pilkington, an English professor at Dixie State University, died on Feb. 19.

An email sent to faculty on Feb. 20 by President Biff Williams stated: “It is with great sadness that I inform you that one of our beloved colleagues, Ace Pilkington, passed away yesterday. Our most sincere condolences go out to his wife, Olga Pilkington, who is an Assistant Professor of English here at DSU, as well as other family members, friends, and colleagues.

“Ace [Pilkington] served as a professor of English and history for more than 40 years and was known for his love for and knowledge of Shakespeare’s works. His students remember him as being a terrific professor who made history come alive. He had a great sense of humor and enjoyed telling stories from his time at Oxford University, from where he earned his doctorate in Shakespeare, history, and film.”

Mike Peterson, English department interim chair, informed students in Ace Pilkington’s classes of his death and said Olga Pilkington asked to take over her husband’s classes.

“I don’t know if she will change due dates or cancel any classes this week or next week, but I hope you will be patient with her during this transition,” Peterson said. “Olga [Pilkington], like Ace [Pilkington], is a fantastic English professor with a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

Leslie Twitchell, an administrative assistant in the English department and one of Pilkington’s former students, said: “[Ace] Pilkington was, without a doubt, one of my favorite professors. His immense knowledge on the subjects he taught made class interesting. He had a fantastic sense of humor and definitely had strong opinions about certain historical events and people, and students loved him for it. He passed on his enthusiasm to the class and our discussions became lively on many occasions.”

One such occasion was when Ace Pilkington was teaching his students about Russia and invited his Russian-born wife and her friend to speak, Twitchell said. She said none of Ace Pilkington’s students wanted to leave class that day due to a  fascination with the in-depth discussion. She said he had a knack for making class exciting through discussions, videos and guest speakers.

“As a colleague, Ace [Pilkington] was always very kind and supportive,” Twitchell said. “Several times he and Olga [Pilkington] sent me encouraging emails. When I graduated from DSU, they congratulated me for my accomplishment, and Ace [Pilkington] hoped I would audit his classes in the future. Even though we were not housed in the same building, I felt a connection to Ace [Pilkington]. I will miss him.”

Twitchell said although she doesn’t have details, to her understanding Ace Pilkington was sick prior to his passing.

“Ace [Pilkington] was my colleague for 15 years,” English professor Randy Jasmine said. “Beyond the sadness I feel, particularly for his wife — who is also a colleague — I feel a strong sense of my own mortality. I don’t [even] know what happened to him. He kept his personal life private.”

Anyone can leave a tribute to Ace Pilkington on his online obituary at https://www.mcmillanmortuary.com/notices/DrAce-Pilkington.

A graveside service will be held on Thursday, Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. at the Tonaquint Cemetery. The memorial service will be held the same day at 3 p.m. in Gardner conference room D. Both services are open to the public.

For anyone grieving Ace Pilkington’s loss, Williams said the Health and Counseling Center is open to help the community with the grieving process, and students, faculty and staff can make appointments at 652-7756 or by visiting https://wellness.dixie.edu/ for more information.