Call it a 'Daly'
English professor retires after 44 years at UB
Robert Daly has worked at an amusement park, a chemical factory, farms, loading docks and a limestone mine. For Daly, none of these jobs compare to the feeling of teaching, but after 44 years at UB, Daly is retiring.
Robert Daly, a distinguished English professor, is stepping down from teaching at the end of this semester to spend more time with his wife, children and grandchildren. The beloved professor is known for his candor, life stories and knack for teaching.
Daly said he will certainly miss teaching, but has gotten used to the feeling of missing past activities over the course of his life.
“I still miss the limestone mine. I miss playing football in junior high school,” Daly said. “There’s a lot of things I miss anyways; friends when I don’t see them. I don’t think missing someone or something is going to be such a terrible experience. It will be bittersweet.”
The limestone mine was one of Daly’s favorite jobs, but he found teaching had some advantages over limestone mining.
“I remember walking into the classroom thinking that I don’t know how to be a teacher, but I don’t have to worry about the ceiling falling in,” Daly said.
Daly said he will find it strange not walking into a classroom anymore; it will be something new for him. But Daly’s entire career has been about learning and adapting to new challenges.
When Daly first started teaching, he looked to techniques of some of his favorite professors to improve his own teaching. He was astonished when one of his best professors confessed he was always worried about being a bad teacher.
“It really impressed me that the best teacher I had was never really quite certain that he had it right,” Daly said. “I feel that way all the time, day-to-day.”
It means a lot to Daly when students come back and tell him what a positive effect he had on both their academic careers and lives.
Eric Cortellessa, a UB alum took two of Daly’s classes and worked with him closely on his thesis. Cortellessa came across his American Literature class by chance and said it was the most important decision he ever made. Daly remains a dear friend and mentor for him to this day. Daly taught him how to use literature as a tool for living and applying ideas to problems.
Cortellessa is now an English professor in Maryland and uses what Daly taught him in his own classroom.
“I am compelled to conserve his wisdom and pass it along to the next generation and do for others what he did for me,” Cortellessa said. “A classroom is a space in which souls can be saved and lives can be transformed.”
Daly is grateful for the time spent with his students and colleagues at UB.
“Learning and teaching are profoundly enjoyable in and of themselves, but doing so with the students and other colleagues at UB has been a large part of living a life of meaning,” Daly said. “The students, undergraduate and graduate, English majors and others, honors students and everybody else made my years special and happy far beyond anything I could ever imagine in advance.”
Rachel Ablow, a colleague and professor in the English department, knew about Daly even before she came to UB. Ablow didn’t know Daly’s effect on the atmosphere of the department until she experienced it herself.
“Bob Daly is a legend and an institution,” Ablow said. “We are all better, kinder people in his presence.”
Daly is the “most conversational English professor” Carine Mardorossian said she has ever met.
“I used to just make a beeline for the chair next to his. Needless to say, that chair was never free because he is also the most popular person I know. But with a bit of patience and a lot of plotting, I usually managed to take it over from my unsuspecting rival,” Mardorossian said. “And then, I would no longer budge, just sit and listen to the master storyteller. For the record, I also don’t think that he should be allowed to retire. It is unfair, unjust and unacceptable.”
Dana Casullo is a features staff writer and can be reached at features.ubspectrum.com