English Language and Literature Professor Emeritus Stephen Arkin died on May 6 at his home in San Francisco. He was 78.
In the old days, when students asked which courses at San Francisco State should not be missed, the answer was invariably: “Steve Arkin’s Irish literature.” He taught at SF State from 1967 to 2009, serving as department chair for 21 years.
Born in Connecticut and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Arkin attended Amherst College and Yale University. His passions were many. His book collection overflowed the house; no vital new works escaped his attention. He was the literary executor for novelist and photographer Wright Morris, oversaw several international Morris exhibits and arranged for a major donation of photographs to the National Gallery.
Arkin’s areas of expertise included Irish literature, the Modern British novel, Jane Austen and particularly, Virginia Woolf and the Bloomsbury Group. His interest in Bloomsbury was not only academic — he subscribed to Bloomsbury’s twin values of the primacy of art and friendship, and those values manifested themselves every day of his life.
Arkin is survived by his wife of 44 years, Barbara Ann Koenig; his daughter Miriam Sant Arkin of New Orleans; his son Samuel Elihu Arkin of San Francisco; and his siblings Michael and Ellen Arkin of New York City.
In lieu of flowers, please donate to Friends of the San Francisco Public Library, Partners in Health or the San Francisco-Marin Food Bank.