Today I learned the very sad news that my former Spanish professor, Nigel Dennis, has passed away. I want to dedicate a few words to this wonderful man, without whom my passion for Spanish literature would not be what it is today.
Nigel was the Alan Rickman of the St Andrews Spanish Department. His humour was exemplarily British and his lectures and tutorials were a part of the week I would always look forward to. He taught us to be critical, analytical, and look beyond the surface. Nigel made us see things in literature and poetry that made the works shine with clarity and helped us look into their depth.
He was also the Department’s rock star in residence. At the bi-annual Hispanic Society Dinners, he regularly brought out his electric guitar and gave the most hilarious accounts of student life in verse form, sending us into stitches every time.
Despite his dry wit, he was never cynical. He was one of the warmest, friendliest people I’ve ever met. Nigel always welcomed visitors to his office, and not once did I leave without a few minutes (or more) of great conversation and solid advice, academic and personal. When I was applying to Ph.D. positions in my final year, I asked him for recommendation letters. He would give them to me in a sealed envelope and I’d send them to the universities without having read them. But in the end, by accident I’d asked for one more letter than I needed, and curiously opened it. It made me cry. Nigel had written such a personal and wonderful recommendation that I was almost ashamed to have read it (I never told him I had).
I’ll leave you with a picture of Nigel and I, taken at the Spanish Department’s graduation ceremony in 2008.
Muchísimas gracias por todo, Nigel. Te echaremos de menos y nunca te olvidaremos.