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Message on Carl Richard Dolmetsch

Provost Michael R. Halleran sent the following message to the campus community June 17, 2019. - Ed.

Dear Colleagues,

I write with the sad news that Professor Emeritus of English, Carl Richard Dolmetsch, Jr., an educator, author, journalist and longtime resident of Williamsburg, died on Friday, June 7, 2019 after a short illness.

Professor Dolmetsch was born July 4, 1924 in Vienna, the son of a German-Austrian father, Carl R. Dolmetsch Sr., and an American mother, Margaret Hollister, and came to this country with his parents in 1934.  He was educated at the University of Chicago and, before coming to Williamsburg, taught for a decade in high schools and colleges in the Midwest.  He served as a non-commissioned officer in Army Air Force military intelligence in Europe, 1943-45.

In 1959, Professor Dolmetsch joined the W&M faculty in the Department of English as an Assistant Professor, and became a full Professor in 1967.  His specialty was American literature from the colonial period to the 1920s.  He served as chair of the English department from 1970-76 and became Emeritus in 1987.  In 1958, he was a visiting professor at the University of Georgia.  He was a Fulbright lecturer at the Free University of Berlin in 1965-66 and at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in 1977, and returned to Berlin as a Distinguished Visiting Professor from 1981-82.  In summers from 1969-84, he was a lecturer for the United States Information Agency in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Professor Dolmetsch is the author of all or parts of thirteen books.  His The Smart Set: A History and Anthology was on the New York Times Best-Seller list for three weeks, and his latest work, “Our Famous Guest: Mark Twain in Vienna, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, was awarded the Austria Prize, and has been translated into several European languages.  He is the author of scores of scholarly and general magazine articles, mostly on literature, cultural history and music.  A trained violinist, he wrote music reviews for the Virginia Gazette from 1974 to 1994 and for several opera journals in this country, Canada and Europe, after serving several seasons as manager of the William & Mary Concert Series in the 1960s. In the 1990s, he served on the Board of Directors of the Williamsburg Chamber Music Society and annotated the Society’s concert programs.  For many years after retirement, he gave courses in music, literature and Austrian social history in the university’s Christopher Wren program for senior citizens.

Professor Dolmetsch married Joan Downing, of Munster, Indiana, in 1948.  She became Curator of Graphic Arts at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; she died in 2003.  Their oldest son, Carl Richard Dolmetsch III, died in 2016.  Professor Carl Dolmetsch, Jr., is survived by a second son, Dr. Christopher Dolmetsch, Professor Emeritus of German at Marshall University, by a granddaughter, Alicia Dolmetsch Welch, and by a great-granddaughter, Brenna Welch of Charlottesville, VA.

There will be a Celebration of Life for Carl Dolmetsch at Williamsburg Landing, in the Alvin Anderson Auditorium in the main building, on Friday, July 5th at 2:00 pm.  All are welcome to attend.  RSVP to Christopher Dolmetsch no later than Tuesday, June 25th, either by email ( or by phone (304-562-3966).