Aquinas Mourns Loss of Dr. Brent Chesley

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Dr. Chesley

Dr. Brent Chesley (1956-2016), professor of English at Aquinas College, passed away peacefully Tuesday, November 22 as a result of the lymphoma that he had been battling since August. Dr. Chesley joined the faculty of Aquinas College in 1987 and taught 17th- and 18th-Century British Literature, Nonfiction Writing Workshop, Revising and Editing Your Own Prose, and Inquiry and Expression.

He was known around campus for his belief that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is the best novel ever written in English. He also had a special interest in helping students to prepare their creative nonfiction for publication. 

The English faculty knew him for 29 years as a kind, witty, insightful colleague and fellow denizen of the third floor of Holmdene. 

“Brent threw himself into the teaching of writing, and he developed a real specialty in creative non-fiction," said Gary Eberle, Chair of the English Department.  "He was instrumental in designing and implementing our English Major with a Writing Emphasis which we inaugurated last fall and has proven a huge success in attracting students. Brent was truly sui generis, one of a kind. ” 

He was a true "person of quality" (his favorite catch phrase), and he developed a special relationship with many students who will carry his memory forever in their hearts. Their Facebook comments in the days after his death are a testimony to his caring and his great influence on a generation of students. 

Chesley was raised in Brainerd, Minnesota, and attended St. John's College, Minnesota, for his undergraduate degree. He earned his Master’s degree from Marquette University, and his doctorate from the University of Notre Dame.  He had a real passion for collecting model Ferrari automobiles, and actually attended Grand Prix races and rooted for his favorite Formula One team, Team Ferrari.

His humorous sketches were highlights of the Aquinas Lecture Series, which he also organized for 29 years, and he was a great presence on the Contemporary Writers Series committee.

Brent is survived by his wife, Dr. Laurie Chesley, who is Provost of Grand Rapids Community College.

A memorial service will be held in Bukowski chapel on Wednesday, November 30 at 12:15 p.m. Father Stan Drongowski and Father Michael Fedewa will preside. A public memorial service for Dr. Chesley will be held on Monday, December 5 at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church (1025 Three Mile Rd. N.E.) A visitation is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. with a 7 p.m. service. In lieu of flowers, the family asks you to consider a donation to your favorite charity or to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation