S. Garrett Bolger, 86, of Bryn Mawr, a longtime professor at Rosemont College, died Saturday, May 18, of complications from pneumonia at Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Dr. Bolger retired as professor emeritus in 1995 after 37 years of teaching in the English department. Even after retiring, he stayed active in the Rosemont College community for 18 more years.
As recently as this spring, he taught in the college's noncredit forum program and was one of its most popular lecturers. His topics included Irish myths and legends; a study of Henry James; and James Joyce's Ulysses.
Typically, Dr. Bolger would perch on the edge of his desk or walk around the classroom, engaging his students with his vivid storytelling.
Rosemont welcomed Dr. Bolger as a faculty member in 1958. He was known as a great admirer of American literature, especially the writings of Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Hemingway, and Faulkner; he also enjoyed teaching the Romantic poets, such as Keats.
Dr. Bolger served as the college's assistant dean in 1971 and 1972. Over the years, he taught returning adult students American studies, English, and the classics, his family said.
He was a leading member of the Faculty Committee and an avid participant in student activities on campus.
"He was very popular, and I'm not just saying that as his daughter," said Patricia Bolger McLeod.
A noted scholar of Irish literature, Dr. Bolger also taught courses in American studies in Ireland during the 1980s. In 1983, he was a recipient of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching.
Along with his wife, the former Mary Patricia Whalen, he established the Bolger Fund for the Promotion and Study of the Culture of Ireland at Rosemont College. That was in the 2000s, his daughter said.
Born in Philadelphia, Dr. Bolger was a 1944 graduate of St. Joseph's Preparatory School in Philadelphia, where he joined the school's first marching band.
A U.S. Navy veteran, he received his bachelor of arts degree in English at the University of Notre Dame. He earned his master's degree and his doctorate in American civilization at the University of Pennsylvania. He was an editor at the Shakespeare Quarterly prior to his appointment at Rosemont.
An accomplished musician, Dr. Bolger played trombone for the Lansdowne and Lower Merion symphonies. During the 1970s and 1980s, he also played in a number of bluegrass bands and at festivals in the area.
His daughter said Dr. Bolger's curiosity about art, astronomy, history, music, and the natural world made him fun to be around. He and his wife traveled widely, at times to watch an eclipse, or to trace the family's genealogy in County Carlow, Ireland.
"He was interested in everything," his daughter said. "He had this curiosity about life, so he never got old, really. He had a very active mind."
Surviving, in addition to his daughter Patricia and his wife of 63 years, are a son, Garrett; daughters Christine Ricart, Elizabeth Haney, Cecilia Russell, and Madeleine; 17 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild.
Condolences to the family may be offered at www.mcconaghyfuneralhome.com.