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Travis L. Summersgill was a member of the faculty in the Department of English at William & Mary from 1948-1956. His appointments: Assistant Professor of English, 1948-1952; Associate Professor of English, 1952-1956; On leave of absence: 1954-1955 semester of 1955-1956 term. 

Brief Biography

Travis L. Summersgill was born June 28, 1917. He received his B.A. from Bucknell University and his A.M. and Ph.D. from Harvard University(Flat Hat, November 28, 1950, 8.). In 1945 he was stationed in Kyoto, Japan with the Armed Forces. He taught at William & Mary as an Assistant Professor of English from 1948-1952 when he was promoted to Associate Professor of English, a position he retained until 1956. In April of 1954 he completed a scale model of the Globe Theatre to be used in his lectures. In 1954 he was awarded a Fulbright Grant for a teacher exchange program for which he taught at Kyushu University in Fukuoka, Japan. There he met and married his wife, Harue. In 1956, he left the College of William & Mary for a position as the head of the English Department at Park College in Missouri.(Summersgill, Chandler Records) Eventually, they moved to Hawaii where he served as chairman of the English Department at the University of Hawaii. He lost his wife to cancer in 2006. (Summersgill, Faculty-Alumni File Collection) He died in Honolulu on January 10, 2009. He was buried alongside his wife at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific.

Departure from William & Mary

The circumstances surrounding his departure from the College of William & Mary are of particular note as he left the employ of the university due to his wife's Japanese heritage. Officially, the article published in the Flat Hat and the official acceptance of Summersgill's resignation by William & Mary President Alvin Duke Chandler indicated that Summersgill was departing to take a position at Park College. In a letter to English Prof. Terry Meyers in July 2008, Summersgill explained: "In my second stay [in Japan] I taught at Kyushu University. It was here that I met my wife-to-be (Harue Mitsuishi Summersgill). After getting married, we flew in 1956 back to William & Mary, where we learned of the Virginia new law against interracial marriage. We discussed this law with the Dean, who convinced us that any F student could wreck our teaching career in Virginia (or other southern states), and we left. For the better part of 5 years, we were largely homeless. But through the good offices of other friends (many still from W+M) we obtained a happy career in Hawaii" (Summersgill, Faculty-Alumni File Collection) (See Virginia's 1924 Racial Integrity Act for further on this topic.).

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


  • Faculty-Alumni File Collection, Travis L. Summersgill, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
  • Office of the President, A.D. Chandler Records, Box 37, Folder 7, Summersgill, Travis, L., 1954-1956, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, William & Mary.
  • Flat Hat, 1 November 28, 1950, 8.

In the News


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A note about the contents of this site

This website contains the best available information from known sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information in this website is not complete, and it changes as we continue to research and uncover new sources.