Oil Portrait of Dr. Eric Naylor by Claude Buckley.
By Klarke Stricklen
The Sewanee Purple would like to recognize the life and legacy of Dr. Eric Naylor (C’58), who passed away on September 16. Naylor, a native of Union City, Tennessee, graduated from the University in 1958 and went on to obtain a PhD at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. He returned to the Mountain in 1962 to begin his career as a Professor of Spanish.
Naylor would go on to intensively study Spanish culture and literature within the medieval period of Spain and co-author a translation of The Archpriest of Talavera: Dealing with the Vices of Wicked Women and the Complexions of Men.
Naylor was a well-known faculty member and beloved professor throughout the entire student body. Former students described Naylor as a caring and generous being, who always opened his home and heart to students. They described him as someone that spoke impeccable Spanish and held students in disbelief when he confessed he was a Tennessee native.
“When I first took Spanish with him I assumed, given what I took from his accent, that he was a native speaker,” said Dr. Andrew Moser (C’93), professor of philosophy and former Sewanee student.
He was also popular for his small dinners and open office environment.
“In my experience, the food always left something to be desired,” joked Moser, “But sometimes what matters more than the food itself is the spirit in which it is offered and the sense of community that it fosters.”
The late professor would go on to offer several more generations of students this same connection. Many have stated that Naylor’s hospitality towards all students and his home are one of the dying traditions of Sewanee but there are still many faculty who strive to continue it.
“I learned from him to take care of my students, not only inside but outside the classroom,” said Dr. Ruth Sanchez-Imizcoz (C’86), “To make sure they knew my office was a safe space for them, and that I was there for them, if they needed me.”
Naylor also assisted in the founding of Chi Psi Fraternity and continued to be their faculty advisor throughout his career.
“Naylor is the cornerstone of our Alpha and there are truly not enough words to describe what he means to us,” said Eddie Duffy (C’20), who served as a pallbearer at Naylor’s funeral. “I can only thank him for the time and effort he put into Chi Psi to allow our brotherhood to thrive on the mountain. He will truly be missed and everyday we hope to prove to him that we are true Chi Psi Gentlemen.”
Zosimo Garcia (C’21) said that “without him I wouldn’t have a fraternity to call home and I wouldn’t have met so many amazing people.”
The beloved professor’s funeral services were held on Thursday, September 19 with a host of faculty and students in attendance, and a memorial service will be held on September 28 at 4pm in St. Luke’s Chapel.
“Dr. Naylor was quixotic in some of his ways, he was caring, loving, and a good friend, he will be dearly missed,” said Sanchez-Imizcoz.
For more information about the life and legacy of Dr. Naylor please visit his updated profile link on the university’s medieval studies page.