Stuart L. Wheeler, a professor of Latin and classical studies, died Aug. 25 of lung cancer. He was 68.
Wheeler, who joined the University of Richmond faculty in 1967, once served as chairman of the classical studies department and was recently the program director for the Urban Practice and Policy program.
Students and colleagues remember Wheeler as a professor who was deeply committed to his teaching style and the classics. He was a stickler for correct Latin pronunciation and often made his students sing Latin poetry. He took students to Greece each year and proudly shared his personal stories and photos with his classes.
"He was old-school," senior Bart Natoli said. Natoli took three of Wheeler's classes and is the founder of the "Stuart Wheeler is My Dawg" Facebook group. Natoli said Wheeler's "Bill Cosby sweaters" and dry humor amused many of his students.
Natoli and other students said Wheeler was passionate about his political opinions but always willing to listen to students' perspectives.
"I never agreed with anything Professor Wheeler said," Natoli said. "However, I never once doubted his motives, and even though I disagreed with him, I always could see his point. He always was trying to better me as a student and as a person in his own eccentric way."
"Stuart Wheeler had a great deal of devotion to his students," classics Professor Walter Stevenson said. "He had a personal connection to them."
His colleagues said Wheeler constantly tried to be in tune with students' needs and he designed the classics library with their comfort and study habits in mind. He furnished it with plush couches and antique study desks from Ryland Hall. Wheeler was an advocate of merging education and aesthetics, Classics Department Chair Dean Simpson said.
"Professor Wheeler connected with students as they were," Simpson said. "He believed students could be moved aesthetically in the room."
Wheeler also provided many of the artifacts for the department's Ancient World Gallery. He found an ancient mummy in the 1970s and stored it in his car for a year before it could be displayed in the gallery.
The late professor was also an authority on University of Richmond architecture and former President Frederic Boatwright, Simpson said. He completed an unpublished book, "Beyond the Sun Door: Emanations of Beauty from the Parthenon to the University of Richmond."
Sparked by his interest in architecture and historic preservation, Wheeler became active in efforts to improve the City of Richmond when he served on the city's Commission of Architectural Review from 1972-1982. At the university, he saved and revised the urban practice and policy program because he believed it was a necessary academic option for students studying in a metro area, political science professor Dan Palazzolo said. Palazzolo is the interim director of the urban practice and policy program.
"Professor Wheeler never stopped evolving," Simpson said. "His view of things was always aesthetic. It all had to do with the way environments need to be nurtured to foster culture."
Before coming to Richmond, Wheeler attended the College of William & Mary as an undergraduate and pursued graduate degrees at Vanderbilt University and the Johns Hopkins University. A native of Bedford, Va., Wheeler was a passionate singer, and during college, he performed an Irish song on a television talent show. He also owned a popular antiques shop in Richmond.
Funeral plans are pending, and the classics department intends to memorialize Wheeler through his work in creating the Ancient World Gallery, Simpson said.