Andrew Debicki, a renowned scholar of Spanish poetry and an experienced administrator at Kansas University, died Thursday at the age of 70.
Born in Poland in 1934, Debicki spent the majority of his childhood in Cuba where his father was a diplomat. He came to KU in 1968 after receiving his bachelor's and doctoral degrees from Yale.
Colleagues remembered him as a dedicated mentor whose guidance benefited students and teachers alike.
"He was especially known for being generous with his time," said Danny Anderson, the current chairman of the Spanish and Portuguese department. Anderson did his graduate work at KU, and was both a student and colleague of Debicki.
"The work he did to help individuals make the transformation from graduate student to successful, contributing members of the profession was immense," Anderson said.
Debicki spent the latter half of his career at KU occupying various administrative posts. From 1989 to 1993, he directed the Hall Center for the Humanities. From 1994 to 1996 he served as the vice chancellor for research, graduate studies and public service. He officially retired in 2000 after serving four years as the dean of the Graduate School and International Programs, but continued teaching classes in Western civilization, Spanish and Portuguese.
But Debicki's contributions were not limited to the KU administration. His research earned him wide recognition and several grants, including a Fulbright fellowship and two Guggenheim fellowships.
Debicki wrote extensively on Latin American and Spanish poetry of the 20th century. Anderson said Debicki was especially fond of a group of Spanish poets called the "Generation of 1927," but stayed abreast of modern poetry throughout his career.
"He never tired in terms of his research, so he was very up to date on poets of the '70s and '80s and '90s," Anderson said.
Retired KU professor Michael Doudoroff, who worked with Debicki from the time he came to Lawrence in 1968, said students who had class with Debicki were treated to a special teacher.
"The term that sticks in my mind most was from a student who remarked that his classes were like a religious experience," Doudoroff said.