The wonderful Victor Menza died April 25th at home. We who love him are at a complete loss, easy to understand if you ever met him. People can’t be summarized but many of the particulars that made him so lovely appear in his book, which he finished this past December. He took classics and literature at the University of Buffalo where he studied with the poet Charles Olson, who urged him to pursue philosophy. He earned his PhD at Johns Hopkins as a Woodrow Wilson scholar, with a thesis on why Plato banned poets from his republic. Victor came to Dartmouth to teach philosophy, which he loved doing and was outstanding at.
He was a joy to talk to and wrote in plain, suddenly lit up English you feel you can hold. His corpus is a revelation and great example how any person willing to keep on thinking, care about politics, and be true to themselves can practice philosophy. Good manners and principle freed everything up for conversation; so did the fact that Victor was very very funny. He liked being helpful, giving out ideas, books and music especially, including enchanting melodies he made up on the piano, and soothing hurts. For all his boldness, he impressed one as gentle and kind, which he was. He took up the big or small things people said and remembered them.
Aggrieved finding out at 54 he was adopted because it meant he had been repeatedly lied to, he abhorred secrets. Bookstores were among his favorite places (preferably daily), though not libraries with their forced quiet. He always had a small, ever-changing stack of books by his side to help with problems bearing on his current work.
Victor showed enormous bravery and devotion standing up for his students and daughters. An untold number remember something he said they still live by; he was that nimble, that open. He championed love, as his girls and all he befriended will attest.
This obituary first appeared in the May 9, 2013 print edition of the Vermont Standard.
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