David A. Beronä, an important historian, curator, and critic of visual narrative, has died. This fills me with sadness. David was a colleague, a bright, inspiring man, and a warm and generous presence. His broad smile, kind and affirming ways, and boundless enthusiasm were both a joy and a lesson. I had the pleasure of meeting David at several conferences over the years, including the OSU Festival of Cartoon Art and International Comic Arts Forum, and at the Center for Cartoon Studies in Vermont. I also had the honor, thanks to David's generous invitation, to co-present with him at Reading Pictures: The Language of Wordless Books, a panel at the American Library Association conference in 2008. This panel, organized by the Association of College and Research Libraries, also included scholar Perry Willett and artist Eric Drooker. I count it as a highlight of my conference presenting career. Here's an admittedly blurry picture taken at that panel, showing (from left) me, Eric, Perry, David, and organizer Juliet Kerico:
I always be grateful to David for that wonderful gig, which opened doors for me and introduced me to some great people.
David was not only a generous colleague but also our foremost historian of wordless visual narratives in book and comics form, including, for example, the early 20th century woodcut novels of artists like Frans Masereel and Lynd Ward. He curated two exhibitions and several editions in that field, doing more than any other scholar to bring that extraordinary work back to public consciousness. His historical anthology, Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels (2008), is the single best source for introducing readers to that area. And he did still more: over the past twenty years, David spearheaded the republication of key works, wrote introductions to a dozen volumes, including a remarkable run of eight books published by Dover from 2005 to 2011, assembled anthologies of work by artists Eric Gill and Baron Hans Henning Voigt (a.k.a. Alastair), contributed chapters to the books Critical Approaches to Comics (ed. Smith and Duncan, 2011) and The Language of Comics: Word and Image (ed. Varnum and Gibbons, 2001), reviewed comics and scholarly books continually, and spoke at myriad conferences and in classrooms, museums, and galleries. He was a busy, and happy, scholar, one who enabled the work of others.
David was a scholar, librarian, and teacher with a multifaceted professional life. Until his retirement last year, he served as Dean of the Library and of Academic Support Services at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and before that (2005-2009) as Plymouth State's Library Director. A native Ohioan, David earned his B.S. at Wright State in Dayton, his Masters in LIS at Simmons College in Boston, and a Masters in Liberal Studies at the University of New Hampshire. Before Plymouth State, he held positions at UNH (1999-2005), U of New England in Maine (1996-1999), and Westbrook College in Maine (1990-1996). His CV shows a remarkable record of professional service, which his website could only hint at. The breadth and depth of his accomplishments are humbling.
I feel very fortunate to have known David Beronä and benefited from his scholarship. He was a good soul and a good scholar and he made a difference. My condolences to his loved ones and colleagues everywhere; his stay was too short, and we are poorer without him.