Dr. Peter SchakelDr. Peter Schakel

Retired English professor Dr. Peter Schakel, who across his nearly 50 years on the faculty earned national acclaim as a scholar and appreciation and respect from students and colleagues as a teacher and for his service, died on Wednesday, March 20, 2024. He was 82.

He joined the Hope faculty in 1969, and from 1984 until retiring in 2017 he was the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Professor of English.  He spent 20 of the 34 years between 1981 and 2015 serving as department chair.

His area of scholarly specialization was British literature from 1660 to 1800, focusing particularly on the life and works of Jonathan Swift and Jane Austen; he was also an internationally respected scholar of C.S. Lewis’s work.

He wrote and edited or co-edited three books on Jonathan Swift and 18th-century British literature; published six books on C.S. Lewis; co-authored or co-edited four literature and poetry textbooks with colleague Jack Ridl, professor emeritus of English; and wrote numerous articles published in scholarly journals.

In 2009, he delivered the college’s Opening Convocation address.  He received the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator (H.O.P.E.) Award from Hope’s senior class in 2013, the Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award in 2004, and the Provost’s Award for Service to the Academic Program in 2013.  External recognitions included a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) Fellowship for College Teachers during 1979-80; NEH summer seminar support in 1981, 1987 and 1997; and Mythopoeic Society Scholarship Awards in 1984, 1992 and 1996.

He graduated from Central College in Iowa in 1963.  He completed his master’s degree at Southern Illinois University in 1964, and his doctorate at the University of Wisconsin in 1969.

He was preceded in death by his wife of 45 years, Karen (Snuttjer) Schakel, on Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009; and by a grandson, Alex Hoffman, in 1998.

He is survived by his daughter Jennifer L. ’89 (Timothy J. Hoffman ’86), of Holland; his son Jonathan M. ’94 (Megan Sharp), of Charlottesville, Virginia; and by his grandchildren, Jon Hoffman ’16 (Alyssa Pinkham ’18), Thomas Hoffman, Michael Hoffman ’23 and Paul Schakel.

Donations in his memory may be given to Community Action House in Holland or to the Schakel Family Scholarship Fund at Hope College.

Arrangements are by Dykstra Funeral Homes. A memorial service will be held on Tuesday, May 7, at 3 p.m. at All Saints' Episcopal Church, located at 252 Grand St. in Saugatuck, Michigan.