The University of Chicago News Office
March 5, 2004 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

Geoffrey C.M. Plampin, 1923-2004

Geoffrey C.M. Plampin, Editor of Official Publications, Dissertation Secretary, and Vice-Marshal of the University of Chicago, died Saturday in the Horton VNA Hospice in Valparaiso, Ind. Plampin, 80, was a resident of Dunes Acres, Ind.

As Editor of Official Publications, he was in charge of preparing the University directory, its course announcements and its convocation programs for publication. As Dissertation Secretary, he was responsible for insuring that all doctoral dissertations at the University were in good order before degrees could be granted. As Vice Marshal, he oversaw the ceremonies that are part of the convocations.

“He did important work as Dissertation Secretary to better organize the dissertations in the era before computers,” said Peter Dembowski, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in French at the University. “He insisted on good paper and good typing so that the dissertations could be easily photocopied and could be read in the years after they were written.”

In addition to his official functions with the University, Plampin was an amateur actor and appeared in commercials for gasoline companies. He also was a member of the University of Chicago Faculty Revels, an annual parody performance put on by faculty. In one of those performances, he once danced with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, then a University of Chicago faculty member.

“He used to shock people by announcing he had danced with Scalia before Sandra Day O’Connor was named to the court,” said Plampin’s son John.

He was born at the army base in Fort MacPherson, Ga. and attended Georgia Tech in Atlanta but dropped out to join the U.S. Army in the spring of 1941 as a private. He served at Mather Field, Sacramento, Calif., then Officer’s Candidate School in Miami, and eventually became a captain in the US Army Air Force, serving in Morocco and later in the Pacific, where he was based in Guam in a B-29 squadron.

After discharge, he came to the University of Chicago in January 1946, where he studied Medieval English History and received a B.A. in 1957. He took time off from his studies to write for encyclopedias, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, where he wrote articles on art history and other subjects.

He became Editor of Official Publications and Dissertation Secretary and in 1960 later became Vice-Marshal as well. He retired in 1992.

“He loved exactitude, excellence and pageantry, so ideally suited to his three simultaneous jobs,” said his son John.

He also is remembered for helping new administrators learn their way around the University. “It was a delight and an advantage to have Geoff as a colleague in the administrative structure because of his personal grace, which made newcomers feel particularly welcome, and his seemingly inexhaustive knowledge of the University, the people in it and the way it worked,” said Harvey Stein, Associate Director in the Office of International Affairs.

While at the University, he also served at various times on the boards of the Quadrangle Club (the faculty club), the Renaissance Society and the Gilbert & Sullivan Opera Company.

In addition to performing in the faculty Revels, he performed at Court Theatre, Rockefeller Chapel, Gilbert & Sullivan productions, and performances at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. “He loved character roles—being the Pope, the king, the butler, or someone’s uncle,” his son added.

Additionally, Plampin made some industrial films. He always considered himself an amateur and didn’t join equity.

In 1988, he moved to Dune Acres, Ind., and after retirement, he served variously as Dune Acres Police Commissioner and as Building Commissioner.

“He loved architecture and really liked dealing with plans, architects and builders. Other passions included opera and classical music, ballet and the theatre, traveling to Europe for museums, opera, reading thrillers, political and other news,” his son said.

“He continued doing the things he loved as long as possible,” said Michael Murrin, Professor of English at the University of Chicago. “A philosopher once said that humans without hope cannot be human. Geoff never lost hope.”

Survivors include his wife, Barbara; sons, Christopher and John; a grandson; sister, Romesa Sheppard; brother, Richard; and stepmother Tillie Plampin.

A funeral was held Wednesday and a University memorial service will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Ann of the Dunes in Beverly Shores, Ind.; the Lyric Opera of Chicago; or to the Horton VNA Hospice, Valparaiso.
Last modified at 01:33 PM CST on Friday, March 05, 2004.

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