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Bacon, Wallace A., 1914-2001

 Person

Dates

  • Existence: 1914 - 2001

Wallace Alger Bacon was born in Bad Axe, Michigan, on January 27, 1914, the third of the four children of Russel Alger Bacon and Mana Eusebia (Wallace) Bacon. He served in the U.S. Army from 1942 - 1946, leaving as a Captain. Bacon joined the Northwestern University faculty in 1947 with a joint appointment in Interpretation and English, sesrving as faculty member for three decades.

Bacon attended elementary schools in Bad Axe and Detroit and graduated from Northeastern High School in Detroit in 1931. He entered Albion College in the fall of 1931, receiving his Bachelor of Arts degree (English and Classics) in 1935. Bacon was elected Phi Beta Kappa and received a scholarship for graduate study at the University of Michigan. He received his Master of Arts in 1936 and his PhD in 1940 with a dissertation entitled “Shakespeare's Dramatic Romances”. He then accepted an appointment as instructor in English at Michigan.

Bacon was inducted into the U.S. Army on June 5, 1942, and assigned to the Signal Corps. He was given a direct commission as a Second Lieutenant on July 6, 1943, and left the service on February 8, 1946 as a Captain. Much of his military duty was spent doing Japanese translation, some of it being highly secret. For this work he was awarded the Legion of Merit in 1946.

After the war Bacon resumed his instructor's position at the University of Michigan. In 1947 he accepted an assistant professorship at Northwestern, with joint appointments in Interpretation and English in the School of Speech and the College of Liberal Arts. In 1951 he was promoted to associate professor. In 1955 Bacon became a full professor (dropping his joint appointment in English). In 1947, he was named chairman of the Department of Interpretation; he served as chair of the department until his retirement in 1979. During most of his career at Northwestern Bacon lived in Winnetka, Illinois. He moved to Taos, New Mexico, upon his retirement.

At Northwestern Bacon received a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship which he spent at the Folger Library in 1948-49; a Ford Foundation fellowship at the Huntington Library in 1954-55; a Fulbright lectureship in the Philippines, 1961-62; and a Fulbright-Hays lectureship, also in the Philippines, in 1964-65.

Bacon was a prolific writer, concentrating primarily on plays and poems from his high school days to the 1940's and on articles and books from the middle of the 1940's until his retirement. He has also written short stories and has been engaged in various aspects of drama and film. Throughout his career he has been a popular speaker and critic of interpretive performances. His major book, The Art of Interpretation, was widely adopted and went through three editions (1966, 1972, and 1979).

Active in several organizations Bacon served as president of the Speech Communication Association in 1977. He also served as a consultant to the National Endowment for the Humanities and other organizations.

During his three decades at Northwestern Bacon became well known and respected as a teacher of both undergraduate and graduate students. Students and colleagues frequently sought his advice on career and personal matters. His teaching, writing, and speeches have had a profound effect upon modern developments in the field of interpretation.

Wallace Bacon died February 10, 2001.