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Epic Affection: Summer 2020

Blane Dessy

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When Blane Dessy ’73 learned what the IUP English Department had planned for a new initiative on the study of myth, he was blown away. It included developing programming across academic departments and capitalizing on a resurgence of mythology-inspired pop culture—from the Avengers film series to network television shows Grimm and Once upon a Time.

It reminded Dessy of his IUP days studying with now-retired professor Rosaly Roffman and diving into Homer’s epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey.

“She made everything come alive, and she demonstrated how these poems and themes are universal and timeless,” Dessy said. “They are applicable today just as they were when originally composed. She taught me the power of creativity and how to communicate across time and generations. It was an epiphany.”

Inspired by the combination of memory and present day, Dessy, who is now retired from a distinguished career with the Library of Congress, has made a generous gift to support the new myth collaborative. In turn, the university has named the collaborative in honor of both Dessy and Roffman.

“Myth structures creativity and provides a way to organize the natural, the human, and the divine into stories. It gives societies roots,” said Michael Williamson, a member of the English Department faculty who coordinates the newly named Dessy-Roffman Myth Collaborative. He said the interdisciplinary project will make resources available to students from across the region as well as to anyone who has an interest in mythology, and it will provide an avenue for recording folklore and legends—in essence, preserving culture.

“Because of this gift, so many students will be able to experience what Blane did when he was a student,” Williamson said. “His gift truly reflects the spirit Rosaly brought to the English Department.”