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Dr. Roger Best Rollin

Obituary for Dr. Roger Best Rollin

February 12, 1930 - December 10, 2017
Seneca, South Carolina | Age 87


Dr. Roger Best Rollin, 87, of Seneca, SC passed away peacefully at home with his wife, Lucy, by his side on Sunday, December 10, 2017. Roger was born on February 12, 1930, in McKeesport, PA, the only child of John William Rollin and Hazel Elizabeth (Best) Rollin. John Rollin was a man of humble beginnings who, as a child, went to work at a grocery store and soon became manager. John worked with his brothers in the family furniture business in Pittsburgh, PA and then bought the Metal Fixture Company himself. As a teenager, Roger worked at the office furniture and supply business after school, during holidays and summers. John's industry and perseverance (along with contributions from the family farm) enabled his family to weather the Great Depression relatively comfortably and imbued Roger with a formidable, enduring work ethic. Hazel Rollin was a homemaker whose love of family, dogs, and books profoundly influenced her son. She also wrote poetry and, as a teenager, daringly took a flight in a primitive World War I biplane from Bettis Field, adjacent to the Best family farm. When Roger's maternal uncle, Elmer Best, sold part of the property to create Pittsburgh's Allegheny County airport next to Bettis, already 'air-minded', Roger went "plane crazy"! Throughout his life, he loved everything about airplanes and watched, drew, read about, and flew in them. Unfortunately he was not physically qualified for military aviation, a career he yearned to pursue, but we are all richer for that goal change.

Roger was raised in the Pittsburgh area and had fond memories of days in McKeesport, Port Vue, and Brookline, surrounded by family, with evenings spent listening to their favorite radio programs. On visits to the Best farm Roger enjoyed their clay tennis court, surely the genesis of his other lifelong passion for racquet sports. Roger attended local schools, graduating from South Hills High School in 1948. Four years later he graduated magna cum laude from Washington and Jefferson College, Phi Beta Kappa, earning a BA with honors in English and Philosophy. Accepted into Harvard Law School, Roger instead volunteered for the US Army, counting on the GI Bill to further his education, on his own terms. Roger met Marian Margaret Plants at a dance in Washington, PA, and they were married on December 19, 1952 in the Presidio Chapel in Monterey, CA where Roger was learning Russian and French at the Army Language School. Roger was ordered to Europe, though the Army allowed him a brief sojourn in Virginia, where Marian gave birth to their son, Bruce Geoffrey Rollin. Later in 1954, the young family was stationed in Austria and then transferred to Germany where Roger, an Army Security Agency corporal, served as a translator intercepting Soviet military transmissions. In Bad Aibling, Roger and Marian formed fast (and lifelong) friendships with their landlady, Frau Ploss, and her two children, Walter and Irmi. Accepted into Yale University, Roger was granted an early release, and an honorable discharge, from military service to begin the 1955 fall semester on time. The move to New Haven, CT meant holidays in Pittsburgh while Roger earned his MA (1957) and PhD (1960) in 17th Century English Literature. Their daughter, Lisa Ann Rollin, was born in CT. Roger's doctoral thesis on Robert Herrick was published in 1966.

Roger's first teaching job was as an Instructor of English at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, where from 1959-1975, he advanced to full Professor and earned his tenure, serving as Chairman of the English Department along the way. F & M in the 1960's was a hotbed of liberal thinking, political activism, and social change, even going co-ed (again) in 1969.

Roger was a lifelong Democrat, free thinker, and outspoken advocate for peace, justice, civil and human rights. Initially part of the campus Ban the Bomb movement, he campaigned as a Veteran for Peace. Roger met Dr. Martin Luther King when he and some F & M colleagues became Freedom Riders, traveling south several times in support of civil rights and then proudly marching in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Roger continued to be extremely vocal and active in local and national politics, protesting the Viet Nam War and each war that followed. It is no cliché to say Roger spent his life in a struggle for fairness and equality, pursuing peace, while battling injustice. No superhero, Roger was a beacon, just as he was in politics, sports, academics and humanity.

Roger took a sabbatical leave from Franklin and Marshall 1965-66, and the family moved to Abingdon, England where Roger did further research on Robert Herrick at Oxford University. While in England, the Rollin family forged a lifelong friendship with the entire Gully family, another enduring relationship.

Roger and Marian were patrons of the arts, and, following a path blazed at W & J, Roger performed in many F & M Green Room productions. Among his favorites were The Hostage, Uncle Vanya, and King Lear.

In the fall of 1974, a 44-year-old tenured full Professor of Literature with fifteen years' seniority, set for life, with a son in college and a daughter about to follow, bravely put himself on the academic market. After job interviews across the South, Roger was offered the position of the William James Lemon Professor of English Literature Chair at Clemson University. Promptly accepting, he moved the household to Clemson, SC in July 1975. Marian and Roger made many friends and enjoyed participating in campus and faculty social events. Marian Rollin passed away on May 21, 1981. Two years later, Roger married Lucy Ellen (Krippenstapel) Waddey, PhD on July 16. Together Roger and Lucy were active in Clemson University academic organizations and the community arts scene. They are ardent supporters of and frequent performers in the Clemson Little Theatre. Roger's favorite role was playing opposite Lucy in On Golden Pond. Roger and Lucy liked seeing shows and supporting local theatres throughout the Southeast. They both looked forward to their annual pilgrimage to the Spoletto Festival in Charleston. Roger and Lucy enjoyed traveling together, across country and overseas.

Roger retired from Clemson in 1995 but continued his teaching career giving lectures at the Furman Center for Lifelong Learning Center and wherever two or more were gathered!

Roger was acknowledged as the world's foremost living scholar on the life and works of Robert Herrick. His other academic specialties included 17th Century British Poetry and Prose, Popular Culture, Literary and Critical Theory, and Drama. Since his days at W & J, Roger published widely, from books on Robert Herrick and Popular Culture to numerous conference papers, academic articles, and countless letters to the editors of various publications. Roger was a member of over twenty professional organizations, and he served on many executive committees. His special academic service included chairing the Clemson Faculty Senate twice, the Clemson English Department Curriculum Committee, the Clemson English Department Self-Study Committee, and the Clemson English Department Honors Committee.

Roger was preceded in death by his parents and his first wife, Marian. Roger is survived by his wife of 34 years, Lucy Rollin of Seneca, SC; his son, Bruce Rollin of Seneca, SC; his daughter, Lisa Rollin (Mike McKrill) of Juneau, AK; his step-son, Jonathan Waddey of Olympia, WA; his grand-daughter, Megan Felts(Brandon Felts) of Juneau, AK; his step-grandson, Corey McKrill (Sarah Bronstein) of Corvallis, Oregon; his great-grandson, Jackson Wayne Felts of Juneau, AK; his great-grand-daughter, Grace Ann Elizabeth Felts of Juneau, AK; innumerable cousins across the country (most in PA but some in Sweden as well); and the latest of his loyal canine companions, Chester and Rosebud. Roger leaves behind friends, colleagues, and students who span the globe, as befits his impact on so many different lives and causes.

A celebration of Roger's life will be held March 22, 2018 at the Clemson Little Theatre. Roger requested that friends and family respect his non-belief and free-thought with an entirely secular memorial service and no flowers, please.

Donations in Roger's memory may be made to the following organizations: Clemson Little Theatre, ACLU, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Freedom from Religion Foundation, Council for Secular Humanism, American Humanist Association, Clemson Free Clinic, or Hospice of the Foothills.

Roger will be remembered for his vibrancy, wit, compassion, and scholarship. Roger's passing will be mourned by his family forever.

Condolences may be expressed online at or at Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home, Central, SC.

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Suggested Memorial Donations

  • Clemson Little Theatre
    214 S. Mechanic Street
    Pendleton, SC 29670
  • GHS Hospice of the Foothills
    390 Keowee School Road
    Seneca, SC 29672
  • Clemson Free Clinic
    1200 Suite 1
    Clemson, SC 29631

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Duckett-Robinson Funeral Home & Crematory

108 Cross Creek Road
Central, SC 29630
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