Peter Lawrence Marchant May 14, 1928 ~ October 26, 2013

Peter Lawrence Marchant, 85, died October 26th in Washington Regional Hospital. He was born May 14, 1928 in London, England to Esther and Robert Marchant.  During World War II, he was sent to Uppingham, a boarding school in the country, to escape the London Blitz. At 18, he joined the British Army and was assigned to the Education Core, where he discovered his lifelong love of teaching.

After military service he went to Cambridge University, Caius College, and after graduating, first went to Canada, where he taught English in Vancouver for a year before enrolling in the Ph.D. program at the University of Iowa, where he met his future wife, the Arkansas novelist Mary Elsie Robertson. After earning his Ph.D. from Iowa and publishing his thesis novel Give Me Your Answer Do, his academic specialty became the 19th Century British Novel, which he taught at Penn State and the State University of New York, Brockport. His dedication to teaching earned him the Excellence in Teaching Award.


Later in his career, he became more and more interested in the stories and experiences of the survivors from the Holocaust. Even after Peter partially retired, he continued to teach one class a semester — the Literature of the Holocaust. Through that class, and working with director Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, he got to know a large contingent of Holocaust survivors, helping several of them write their own memoirs. He continued teaching memoir classes after he and his wife retired to Winslow, Arkansas in 2005.

Culturally, Peter was Jewish, but during the Vietnam War he was active in the peace movement and he joined the Religious Society of Friends in the 1970s, becoming an active Quaker. Peter earned a black belt in Judo while in Brockport and loved animals, movies, food, classical music and dancing. He is survived by his wife of 52 years; a daughter, Jennifer Marchant of Murfreesboro, Tennessee; a son Piers Marchant (Audrey) of Philadelphia, one granddaughter, Ella Marchant; a sister Madeleine Benenson of London; a sister-in-law Donna Robertson of Asheville, North Carolina; two nephews, a niece, several cousins, many friends, and his dogs Molly and Jessie.

The family wishes to thank the Fayetteville Friends Meeting whose members were so supportive during Peter’s decline. There will be a memorial service for Peter in December. Those wishing to remember him might make a contribution either to the American Friends Service Committee ( or Amnesty International (, two causes very close to his heart.



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Condolences (18)

    John Curry » 31. Oct, 2013

    I met Peter when I was a graduate student at SUNY Brockport and, while I never had the opportunity to take one of his classes, he became one of my closest advisors throughout my studies and my years as an adjunct. I often hear Peter’s insistent voice stating “How are you surviving these days John?” or “Curry, when can you stop by Hartwell for tea?” We spent many a day at the Brockport Sidewalk Sale manning the Amnesty International table and discussing human rights issues. He was an insightful and often instigating conversationalist and a wonder-full friend. Please accept my condolences.

    Janie Hinds » 31. Oct, 2013

    Mary Elsie,

    I was so moved and saddened to read about Peter’s passing. So many wonderful memories of him, you, your dogs, and our (too-few) visits. You introduced me to the King & I in Rochester, to country roads around Brockport, your wonderful dogs and cats, and best of all, true civility and generosity. Thank you. Peter will be missed.


    Monica Gilligan » 01. Nov, 2013

    I was given a desk in the office across from Peter when I first came to teach in the department. At that time, and for several more years, he was “engaged” in the task of weeding out the stuff from his office. This he did with the door open and while luring me to put my head up from correcting papers in order to have charming discussions of poetry, the Oxford comma, and whatever else was on his mind. He’d pick up a student paper from years before (he seem to have saved thousands) and reminisce about the student, the assignment, and the course. He kept telling me, based on eavesdropping during my student conferences, that I must surely be a wonderful teacher. I needed to hear that so much. When the spring semester was over, he presented me with a brand new copy of *Eats Shoots and Leaves* I treasure it, as I treasure his mentorship.
    Monica Gilligan

    William Heyen » 04. Nov, 2013

    Dear Mary Elsie and family–love and condolences from Han and me. How we all loved Peter, who was a true friend, a true gentleman. I’ll never forget those Holocaust classes that introduced so many of us to survivors, the trip to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, the warm gatherings of friends at Writers Forum events, and so much more. Peter was always supportive, faithful to his vocation, a joy to be around. Hugs from your old Brockport. You know of course that Peter would want you to be well and to find consolation in your memories of your lives together. Bill Heyen

    Tim McGlen » 04. Nov, 2013

    A brilliant teacher and generous man who truly cared about writing, excellence, and decency. 25 years after graduating from Brockport, I still think about him and his lessons–and his apple trees, around which I once urged a lawnmower. God bless Peter and his family.

    Bernice Graham » 04. Nov, 2013

    Mary Elsie, Piers and Jenn, I’m so sorry for your loss. The world has lost a wonderful and caring “character.” He used to tell me I drank whimpy tea. He would bring me a cup of tea and half of it was milk, and it was always good. He was always having a problem with his computer and would think he lost was he was typing. My student workers or I would rescue him. I never knew what event I would find in our kitchen when I opened the door. So many times Peter would be having a dinner party. Many times he would plug in a toaster oven (VOA), the hot water pot, run the microwave and, along with the refrigerator running, the power would go off and I would have to call the maintenance dept. I’m so glad he was in my life. I’m a richer person because of Peter.

    Marc Consler » 07. Nov, 2013

    Miss Peter too Mary Elsie Piers and Jen. He helped me so much when i was down on my luck. He wrote me kind and supportive letters urging me to complete college- which I would have never done without him. He was so much fun to be around and I always miss him.

    Ruth Chamberlain » 09. Nov, 2013

    It was an honour to have known Peter. I met him during my time at Brockport, studying for an MA and doing some teaching on an exchange programme from England. Peter took me under his wing as he could see I was having some difficulties adjusting to being away from home, and we went on to spend a lot of time together as teacher/student/colleague and as friends. He was a man of great generosity and humour, with seemingly boundless energy. We also shared a passion for food and cooking and exchanged many recipes; I have very fond memories of cooking in the Hartwell kitchen together or munching on the home-made treats he would always have stored in his office. Peter had a deep interest in other people and in the human condition and did so much to enable people to tell their stories- often difficult ones. He had a way of drawing people out and of encouraging reflection and creativity. I personally benefited from this, and Peter played a significant part in helping me on my journey of dealing with difficult issues from the past, through writing. The world has lost a great man. My thoughts and love to his family.

    Margay Blackman » 10. Nov, 2013

    Mary Elsie, Piers, and Jenny—So sad to learn of Peter’s passing. I have such fond memories of Peter: tea in your backyard, discussing life histories and his Holocaust memoir work, auditing Judith Kitchen’s creative essay class together. He was a gentle soul and fierce intellect to all who knew him at the college, and I will miss him. Condolences to you all–

    Margay Blackman

    Name » 01. Dec, 2013

    Mary Elsie, I am so sorry to hear Peter is no longer with us. I still hear his voice, and have such fond memories of our conversations.
    Jenny Lloyd

    Allen Plymale » 12. Jan, 2014

    I very much enjoyed having him as a teacher. He made a lasting impression on so many of us. I still recall many of his sayings. He demanded 100% from us. He gave us much more in return. (So happy to understand his Taurus roots. It all makes sense now.) He made the world a better place than he found it. What else can you say for a life of service? He will be missed. Thank you for sharing Peter wih all of us! Godspeed!

    Brian Buchanan » 15. Jan, 2014

    I took Dr. Marchant’s Women in the British Novel class. He was a brilliant teacher. Also funny. I’ll never forget that he once called me a “plutocratic dissembler” — all in fun.

    Li-Hao » 02. Apr, 2014

    Dear Mary Elsie

    My deepest condolences to Peter’s passing. A belated one at that.

    I still have vivd and fond memories of my time with Peter in Loughborough, and my visits to your love home in upstate New York. Peter has been a great friend and mentor to me, and helped me shape some of my core values during my formative years. He shall be dearly missed. I pray that you are keep well.

    Judy Fuller » 24. May, 2014

    I just learned of Peter’s death through a brief comment in the recent Kaleidoscope magazine, and I am in tears. Dr. Marchant taught Advanced Composition during my freshman year; I still remember sitting in a circle of desks. He’d always have tea and biscuits available for a quarter, as he believed students couldn’t think when hungry – and college students are always hungry. Meeting him my freshman year is a gift Brockport gave me that I’ll always cherish, as I will the other classes I took with him, the talks in his offices, and the early morning aerobic class one semester. He was a most energetic and inquisitive person who looked past the surface and focused on the internal in books and in people alike. I am sorry for the loss you must still feel.

    Dr. James Karasiewicz » 15. Aug, 2015

    I just happened to find this obituary. I was fortunate enough to have Peter as a professor between 1973-75. He was my major Prof during my graduate program and the kindest teacher I have ever known. I am glad he had a long and meaningful life. He spawned many future teachers like myself. Rest in peace.

    George Sugrue » 26. Aug, 2016

    I just became aware of my friend and life long advisors passing. My sincerest condolences to Mrs Marchant and Peters children. He left a legacy of sincere teaching on multi level basis that will never be paralleled. Thanks Peter for being a good and respected mentor, I will pray for your entire family.


    Gayton » 07. Aug, 2017

    Dr. Marchant was one of my favorite professors. I have such fond memories of his classes and still to this day bake raspberry bar cookies from a recipe he gave me. I just had a poem published and wanted to tell him; I was heartbroken to find this page on google. (Somehow, I thought he was at least ten years younger–such a vibrant man.) I can still hear his voice discussing Wuthering Heights. My heartfelt condolences to his family.

    Victor bartolotta » 16. Oct, 2017

    Dr. Marchant was one of my favorite teachers at Brockport. I just learned of his death. He was always welcoming. He always had food for poor, starving students and would foist it upon them when they visited him in his office. Later, when I taught, I copied that same welcoming model. May he Rest In Peace.