Obituary of Gordon Overton Taylor
Gordon Overton Taylor was born October 1, 1938, in Los Angeles, to Angus Ellis Taylor and Mary Kathleen (Lapham) Taylor. He died in Tulsa on January 19, 2024, at the age of 85, of metastatic cancer.
Gordon grew up in Pacific Palisades, California, also spending school years as a child and teenager in Cambridge, England, and Geneva, Switzerland, during Angus’s sabbatical years. In Switzerland, he and his family were able to continue a passion for mountaineering that had been cultivated in the Sierra Nevada. He graduated from Harvard College in 1960, and obtained his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of California at Berkeley in 1967. At UC Berkeley, he met Tatiana Marinovich, whom he married in 1964 in New Orleans. Gordon and Tatiana moved in 1966 to Cambridge, Massachusetts, where Tatiana took a library science degree at Simmons College in Boston while Gordon was teaching at Harvard. They returned to Berkeley in 1969, where Gordon was an assistant professor in the English Department. Their son Jonathan was born there in 1971.
The family moved to Tulsa in 1976, when Gordon became a professor in the University of Tulsa’s Graduate Faculty of Modern Letters, and Tatiana joined the Special Collections of McFarlin Library. The Graduate Faculty of Modern Letters was united in 1982 with TU’s English Department, of which Gordon served as Chair from 1982 to 1992. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980, and was appointed a TU Chapman Professor in 1992. He was the author of The Passages of Thought: Psychological Representation in the American Novel, 1870-1990 (Oxford University Press, 1969) and Chapters of Experience: Studies in Modern American Autobiography (St. Martin’s Press, 1983).
Gordon’s teaching specialties in American literature included Henry James, Edith Wharton, and Mark Twain. He also developed a research interest in the literature of the Vietnam War; collaborated with colleagues in the English and Film Studies departments on courses about films, including Westerns; and took an active interest in international scholarship in American studies, attending and presenting at conferences of the European Association for American Studies.
Gordon is remembered by students and colleagues for his generosity with time and thought, and the diplomacy and integrity he brought to bear in strengthening the English department and the university as a whole. He was known for his extensive service to TU beyond the English department, serving as acting Dean of the Kendall College of Arts and Sciences and as an interim chair of its Communications department. He retired from TU in 2012.
In retirement, Gordon served on the Board of Trustees of the Oklahoma Humanities Council, and volunteered as a mediator at Tulsa County Court, an excellent match for his personal calm strength. He was devoted for years to an Italian language study and conversation group that grew out of classes he and Tatiana took at Tulsa Community College. He enjoyed vacationing with Tatiana and Jonathan in Europe, particularly France and Italy; New Orleans; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and the North Fork of Long Island in New York.
The family wishes to thank Dr. Rui Mao of OU Physicians, Dr. David Okada and Dr. Komi Folly of St. Francis Hospital and Miller Hospice for their care and attention; and, especially, Jerry Schuster, Danny Schuster, and Beryl Bolo for their loving care and friendship.
Gordon was preceded in death by Tatiana, after 52 years of marriage. He is survived by Jonathan and his husband, David Schleifer, of Brooklyn, New York; brother and sister-in-law, Kenneth and Melva Lee (Mike) Taylor of Norman, Oklahoma; sister Kathleen (Kitty) Taylor Okamoto of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and nephews and niece Melissa Hyde, Ben Taylor, Nathaniel Taylor, Seiji Okamoto and Daniel Okamoto.
In the words of a letter to Gordon from poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1933-2017), who joined the TU faculty in 1992, “You always will be the inviting example of intellectual dignity and human warmth.”
A memorial service will be held at the Ellen G. Adelson Auditorium in TU’s Tyrrell Hall, on Sunday, March 10, at 1:00pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Gordon’s memory to Doctors Without Borders (donate.doctorswithoutborders.org).
Ninde Brookside | 918-742-5556 | www.ninde.com