Lew Bagby enrolled in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at U-M in 1968 and left ABD in 1970 to build the Russian program at the University of Wyoming. Under John Mersereau, Jr.’s guidance, Bagby completed his dissertation on Alexander Bestuzhev-Marlinsky’s prose fiction and defended in 1972.
In Wyoming, where Mersereau and his brother came to fly fish with him, Lew taught Russian language, 19th and 20th century Russian literature, and special topics courses on individual Russian authors, periods, and themes. After moving through the academic ranks to full professor, from 1989-92 he served as chair of the Department of Modern and Classical Languages, and from 1995 to 2006 administered international programs for the university. During his time as director, he formed university relations with partner institutions on six continents in order to foster student, faculty, staff, administrative, government, and citizen exchanges. In 1998 Bagby received an honorary doctorate from University of Wyoming’s partner institution in Russia, Saratov State University, with which he initiated both academic and state/province relations in 1991. Lew’s most recent publication is First Words: On Dostoevsky’s Introductions (Academic Studies Press, 2016), a work he completed in retirement after putting it on hold during his years of administrative service.
Lew writes, “I could hardly have been prepared better for a fulfilling life in the field had it not been for the mentoring, friendship, and balance of mind and heart I encountered in the productive and caring members of the Slavic Department’s faculty.” A classmate of Herb Eagle in a time of civil and campus unrest and excitement, he recalls with special feeling Professors Mersereau, Asya Humesky, Deming Brown, Horace Dewey, Irwin Titunik, Ladislav Matejka, Ben Stolz, and Karl Kramer. On the first day of Lew’s written exams, a Saturday, he watched from the department windows as students marched down the streets, shouting “Open it up, or close it down!” U-M opened up.