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Friends and colleagues mourn retired Washington and Lee professor

Published: Dec. 21, 2020 at 5:17 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Va. (WDBJ) - Retired Washington and Lee history professor Ted Delaney died over the weekend after a long battle with cancer.

He was a well-known figure in Lexington, not just because of his position at the school.

Delaney’s remarkable life was remembered last year when Washington and Lee awarded him an honorary degree at the last commencement to be held in person on campus.

“Yours is a story of courage and character, of principle and perseverance, of commitment and civility,” they said in the proclamation. “And we honor you as the embodiment of the spirit and soul of this institution.”

It was a well-known story about a well-loved man.

“Ted was an extraordinary colleague, an extraordinary scholar,” said Prof. Molly Michelmore, head of the History Department at Washington and Lee. “He devoted his life in one way or another to Washington and Lee University. He loved the place, but he was also very willing to recognize where it had failed to live up to its promises, to its sense of itself, and to call them out on it.”

Before becoming a respected professor, Delaney had worked as a janitor at the school, taking courses between shifts as he could afford them until he graduated in his 40s.

“I recognize him as an icon,” said Rev. Reginald Early, president of the Rockbridge NAACP. “I recognize him as an icon because of his contributions, because of the life that he led.”

Early saw him as more than a professor, but as a teacher to all.

“He gave himself so tirelessly to others, and to these organizations, to CARE Rockbridge, to the NAACP,” Early said, “To the point where we have a fund named after him that will support youth initiatives.”

“It reminds us that we need to think more clearly about those relationships between W and L and Lexington,” Michelmore said, “Particularly Black Lexington.”

Lessons that his friends and admirers hope will be carried on.

Early said, “And to say that he will be missed is an understatement, an understatement.”

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