Gene William Ruoff

Gene Ruoff, 80

Distinguished professor at UIC

Gene William Ruoff, 80, died on Jan. 4, 2020 of natural causes. He was born on July 23, 1939. 

Gene was a scholar of English romantic literature and was an emeritus faculty member and former administrator at the University of Illinois at Chicago. The son of Robert G. Ruoff and Thelma L. O’Hara Ruoff, Gene was raised in Paducah, Kentucky. 

In 1967, he married A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff, now professor emerita of English, UIC, who survives him. 

Because the University of Illinois did not permit married couples to be in the same department, Gene and LaVonne had to obtain an exception to this rule from the central administration. Gene adopted her children: Stephen Charles (1958-2018) and Sharon Louise (1959-2002). During their marriage, the couple primarily lived in Oak Park and Glen Ellyn. 

After receiving his B.A. in 1961 from Centre College, Danville, Kentucky, Gene entered the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he completed his master’s degree in English in 1963 and his Ph.D. in English in 1970. 

He wrote “Wordsworth and Coleridge: The Making of the Major Lyrics, 1801-04” (1989), and “Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility” (He edited “Romantic Poetry: Recent Revisionary Criticism,” with Karl Kroeber (1993); “The Romantics and Us: Essays on Literature and Culture” (1990); and “The Age of William Wordsworth: Critical Essays on the Romantic Tradition,” with Kenneth R. Johnston (1987).

From 1986 to 1996, Gene directed the UIC Institute for the Humanities, where he mentored the fellows and organized programs. Gene was a leader in offering summer institutes for high-school teachers. 

The National Endowment for the Humanities funded seven of these: “Jane Austin: The Society and the Self,” “Jane Addams’s Hull House Humanities Program,” “The Romantics and Us,” and “Literature in an Age of Revolutions.” 

The Illinois Humanities Council supported “The Multicultural Debate American Literature and the Schools.” In 1994, Gene became associate vice chancellor for Academic Affairs. 

From 1996 to his retirement in 2009, he was associate provost and special assistant to the chancellor for Information and Management Systems. He coordinated UIC’s collaboration with the Urbana-Champaign and Springfield campuses to create a unified computer system as well as supervised that of UIC.

 Gene and LaVonne dedicated 31 years to restoring their 1893 three-story Victorian home, known as the Charles A. Purcell House. They received a state of Illinois restoration grant and were among Oak Park’s first homeowners to repaint their house in Victorian colors. 

They and Stephen decorated the walls and ceilings with Bradbury & Bradbury’s Victorian reproduction wall papers. Their home was featured in “Wallpaper with Style: Bradbury & Bradbury,” Victorian Sampler (Christmas 1993). 

In 1997, the Historical Society of Oak Park awarded the couple its prize for interior decoration. In 1998, the house was part of the Frank Lloyd Wright Plus Tour of Oak Park.  

Survivors include his brothers, Robert A. Ruoff and Charles O. Ruoff; sister-in-law, Suzanne Brown; and daughter-in-law, Cheryl Moffitt Ruoff. He was buried privately on Jan. 8 in Mound Cemetery, Charleston.                                                                                                             

Gifts in memory of Gene may be sent to the University of Illinois Foundation and designated for the University of Illinois, Chicago, for either the Institute for the Humanities or the Richard J. Daley Library. Gifts may be made online at by pasting in either of the fund titles in the search box provided. Checks should be made payable to the University of Illinois Foundation and sent to 1305 W. Green St., Urbana, Illinois, 61801.

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