John Bugge, Co-Founder of Emeritus College, Dies at 77

John Bugge, who taught English at Emory for 43 years and co-founded the Emeritus College, died on Nov. 5 at age 77 after he sustained injuries in a bike accident, according to Professor of English Sheila Cavanagh.

Bugge suffered from severe brain injuries and cervical and facial fractures on Oct. 18, according to an Oct. 25 email from Cavanagh.

Remembered for his warmth and wit, Bugge co-founded the Emory University Emeritus College, an association of retired Emory faculty and staff, in 2001 and served three terms as director of graduate studies for the English Department, according to Professor of English Jim Morey.

Before coming to teach at Emory in 1968, Bugge obtained his bachelor’s degree from Marquette University (Wis.), received a Fulbright grant to Germany and earned his master’s and Ph.D. from Harvard University (Mass). Bugge specialized in medieval literature and taught courses on Geoffrey Chaucer, Arthurian literature, poetry and the history of English literature, according to Morey.

Bugge retired in Fall 2011 and became a professor emeritus of English and chair of the executive committee of the Emeritus College, serving as its interim director in 2012. Bugge received the Distinguished Emeritus Award in 2013 for his work in fostering community among Emory faculty members.

Cavanagh remembers Bugge as someone who was “always very generous to everybody” and a “dedicated and skilled teacher.” He was well-liked by students and colleagues, twice receiving the Emory Williams Distinguished Teaching Award and a Crystal Apple Award for Teaching Excellence, according to Cavanagh.

Outside the classroom, Bugge biked — Cavanagh said she often spotted him pedaling up the hilly Houston Mill Road — and acted. Bugge was involved with Theater Emory and performed in some productions with the group, including “The Cherry Orchard” in 2013. During the British Studies study abroad program in the U.K. that he directed during the summers, Bugge organized faculty and student actors to put on an opening dramatic presentation about Oxford University (England), Cavanagh said.

“His acting skills and ability really played into why he was such a talented teacher because he could really bring things to life,” Cavanagh said. “He was very enthusiastic about the literature he was teaching and was very engaged with the students.”

Whether he was interacting with students or other professors, Bugge “valued the University” and enjoyed being a member of the Emory community, Emeritus College Director Gray Crouse said.

“He was so invested in being a faculty member at Emory that, as he saw himself retiring at some point, he didn’t want that retirement to mean that he was basically saying goodbye to the University,” Crouse said.

Bugge “gave himself to Emory,” Morey said, adding that Bugge never sought the spotlight, but he was an “ever-present, behind-the-scenes” person who was “essential.”

Morey added that he appreciated Bugge’s mentorship of himself and other junior faculty.

Bugge mastered “terrific pronunciation” of Middle English, and, when he taught, it seemed like he had sprinkled “magic dust” over his classroom, Morey said.

Bugge is survived by his wife Liza Davis and sons Stefan Bugge (14C) and Eric Emmons (95C). The family has not yet announced memorial plans.

Correction (11/14/18 at 11:03 a.m.): The article has been corrected with the correct spelling of Emmons’ name.

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