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Thursday, April 10, 2003

Willis McNelly, retired CSUF English professor
He was a catalyst for the library's extensive science-fiction collection.


The Orange County Register

A former California State University, Fullerton, English professor whose love of science fiction helped bring it into the mainstream of American literature died Monday.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T

Willis E. McNelly, who wrote the "Dune Encyclopedia" and whose close friendship with "Dune" author Frank Herbert led to his donation of the original manuscript of his classic to the CSUF archives, died of cancer at St. Jude Hospital. He was 82.

In a paper he wrote, McNelly recalled being one of the catalysts for the CSUF library's extensive collection of science fiction.

"In 1961, when I joined the faculty of what was then Orange County State College, I had accumulated hundreds of SF books over the years of a not-quite-misspent youth," McNelly wrote.

Over the years, his collection of Amazing Stories and other magazines, as well as his friendships with science-fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick, led to manuscript donations to the library. He also wrote and edited science-fiction stories and critiques.

A scholar of James Joyce, Chaucer and T.S. Eliot, McNelly received awards for his teaching from the university and the state.

"When you saw him in the classroom, he lit the whole room up," remembered Peter McNelly, the oldest of his five children, who took a Chaucer class from his father. "He was in love with the English language. He was in love with his material."

McNelly retired from CSUF in 1991.

His death sparked remembrances from science-fiction fans around the country.

Elizabeth Vegh, a housewife from Melbourne, Fla., published McNelly's eulogy on her "Dune" Web site, futureprometheus.com/ drmcnelly/. She remembers talking to the scholar on the phone, although she never met him.

"He was brilliant and very insightful," Vegh said. "There were lots and lots of people who were 'Dune' fans who knew him."

McNelly is survived by his wife, Genevieve; sons Peter, Patrick and James; daughters Margaret Schimmels and Jean Bowers; and sister Maureen Haggard.

The family plans a private funeral service. CSUF is expected to announce the date of a memorial service.


CONTACT US: (714) 796-7994 or mfisher@ocregister.com">mfisher@ocregister.com
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