John Daniel “J.D.” Stahl of Blacksburg, Va., professor of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, died Thursday, July 15, after a long battle with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. He was 58 years old.
A professor, author, and scholar of children’s and American literature, Stahl led a distinguished career at Virginia Tech. Joining the faculty in 1982, he transformed the children’s literature program from a single undergraduate survey course to a highly respected set of undergraduate and graduate courses. Stahl received the W.E. Wine Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2008 for his decades-long work to guide a generation of young teachers, writers, and scholars.
Spending his childhood in the United States and Europe, Stahl investigated how writers express values and perceptions across cultural boundaries. In 1994, he authored Mark Twain, Culture and Gender: Envisioning America through Europe. This led to further research on how authors, including Twain, represent German culture in American children’s books and books in translation. He also translated a number of German articles for American publication and reviewed German articles in his field.
In 2006, Stahl co-edited Crosscurrents of Children’s Literature: An Anthology of Texts and Criticism, now used in college classrooms around the world. He leaves a legacy not only with the countless students who will use this anthology as a textbook but also with the individual students whose lives he touched in the classroom and beyond.
“Working outside the classroom, in many cases for 20 years or more, he shepherded students through international conferences, helped them to connect with other scholars in the field, and mentored their work to publication through multiple drafts,” wrote Nancy Metz, associate professor of English, who described Stahl as a “man of global sophistication and multi-disciplinary expertise.” “His students have gone on to compose theses, memoirs, children’s books, and multimedia publications. Special editions of scholarly journals and award-winning books of literary criticism have emerged from projects begun in his classes.”
In addition, Stahl was a past president of the International Children’s Literature Association and a founding faculty member of a summer master’s degree program in children’s literature at Hollins University. He received a bachelor’s degree from Goshen College, a master’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh, and a doctorate from the University of Connecticut.
“His passion for teaching, for literature, and for liberal education were reflected in his superb teaching and research but perhaps most in the grace with which he lived his life,” said Carolyn Rude, professor and chair of the Department of English. “In spite of all that life dealt him, he was positive, hopeful, appreciative, considerate, and resilient.”
Stahl is survived by his wife, Sarah Windes, and his two sons, Daniel and Hans.
A memorial service will be held at Blacksburg Presbyterian Church at 701 Church Street SE in Blacksburg, Va., on Monday, July 19 at 3 p.m.
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