OXFORD, Miss. – To friends and family, University of Mississippi Professor Emeritus Colby H. Kullman, who died August 9, was a one-of-a-kind human being who touched the lives of thousands of students during his tenure at the University English Department.
“He was like Halley’s comet — he shone like her — and was unique and selfless,” said Richard Herzog, Kullman’s adopted son. “He lifted while climbing. He never sought the limelight or accolades, but he was very caring, always making time for others and giving back.
Born in New York’s Bronx in 1945, Kullman came to college in 1984 to teach modern drama, expository writing, and 18th-century British literature. He credited UM with “saving” him at age 39 by offering him a tenure-track job.
A renowned Tennessee Williams scholar, Kullman’s work included writing the two-volume landmark work Theater Companies of the World and interviewing playwright Arthur Miller for a special edition of the Michigan Quarterly Review, celebrating the “death of ‘a salesman’ of Miller at age 50.
Caroline Wigginton, chair and associate professor in the UM Department of English, praised Kullman’s scholarship on Williams and noted that he was highly regarded in his field.
“Dr. Kullman was a well-known and respected faculty member not only here in the UM English department or at the university, but throughout the profession,” Wigginton said. “One of my regret is that I arrived at university too late to work with him.
“However, I know he was wonderful and amazing to his students because he is the faculty member that our alumni always mention or ask about every time they visit. I can only hope to have a career and a life half as transformative as his own for the lives of others.
“Beloved” is the word Wigginton and Jay Watson, a prominent English teacher, used to describe Kullman.
“It’s one thing to say that a professor is popular with students; it’s another thing to say he’s loved,” Watson said. “Colby was really loved. He loved his students and they loved him.
“It was so obvious that it helped keep your eyes on the prize as a teacher: students are what it’s all about.”
In recognition of his dedication to students, which extended beyond the classroom, Kullman was named UM’s Liberal Arts Teacher of the Year in 1995 and Elsie M. Hood Outstanding Teacher of the university in 1997, among other distinctions.
“I was never his student in class, but he encouraged me at the end of my classes and gave me wonderful, positive encouragement while I was working on my book simply because he was kind and wanted may others succeed,” said Phillip Gordon, who earned an MA and PhD, both in English, from the university in 2018 and 2013, respectively.
“I’ve always especially loved Colby’s parties at Faulkner’s annual lecture and his involvement with Faulkner on the Fringe,” Gordon, an associate professor of English and coordinator of gay studies at the University of Wisconsin, told Platteville. “For the latter, I think he just loved letting others feel seen and heard and having outlets for their creativity.
“He was just a magnificent human being.”
Ole Miss alumna Anne Lampkin Kramer, who took classes with Kullman between 2006 and 2010 during her undergraduate and graduate studies at college, recalled her infectious joy and unparalleled love for her students.
“That was my Morrie. I’m not unique in that,” said Kramer, an English teacher at Northeast Mississippi Community College. “He gave his exceptional love, encouragement and care to so many people. His light will continue to shine.
Kullman’s light continues to shine thanks to the special bond he shared with fellow alumnus, the late Lori Sneed.
In 2018, Sneed’s parents, John B. “Shorty” and Patti Sneed, of Gulfport, bonded the two in perpetuity by establishing the Lori Sneed Council Scholarship Endowment in honor of Colby H. Kullman, professor emeritus to commemorate their daughter, who died in 2017. , and to recognize Kullman’s influence in her life.
“We are deeply honored that Colby allowed us to honor him with Lori because he was without a doubt his favorite teacher,” Shorty Sneed said in a 2018 interview.
The Ole Miss Women’s Council Scholarship is awarded to students pursuing an English major at Ole Miss, and Kullman served as a mentor in 2019 for the scholarship’s first recipient.
“Colby always took his time, and he always remembered and did for others,” said Herzog, of Nashville, Tennessee. “He visited so many friends and former students, always went to lunch or dinner with them and frequently had guests over to stay with him.
“He gave everything he got every day.”
Kullman has served on the boards of the Ole Miss Retirees Association, Friends of the JD Williams Library and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Councilwhich supports Theater Oxford, the city’s community theater group.
“Colby was a generous, humble and eternally positive person,” said Kate Hooper, UM faculty member and chair of Theater Oxford. “His extensive knowledge of theatre, his passion for the community and his ability to foster growth has enhanced Theater Oxford and the theater community as a whole.
“We will miss seeing his smile, but his laughter will ring in our hearts.”
For Herzog, Kullman, whom he called “Pop”, was his greatest champion.
“I can only encourage everyone who knew and loved him to use him as a role model,” Herzog said. “If we can try to emulate it, the world will be a better place.”
A memorial service for Kullman is scheduled for 1 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Paris-Yates Chapel on the Ole Miss campus. A reception will follow at the Paul B. Johnson Sr. Commons.
Briefs can be made to Lori Sneed Council Scholarship Endowment in honor of Colby H. Kullman, Professor Emeritus, and on his behalf to the University of Mississippi Foundation to support graduate scholarships in the English Department. Checks, with the fund written in the memo line, can be mailed to The University of Mississippi Foundation, 406 University Ave., Oxford, MS 38655.