Allyn F. Roberts (1954-2004)
Moureen Coulter, January 2005
Allyn F. Roberts, who edited the articles section of the American Historical Review for nearly two decades, died in Indianapolis on October 21, 2004. Her death resulted from complications following surgery to treat ovarian cancer. She was 50 years old and had been on medical leave from the journal since July.
Allyn was born in Big Bend, Kansas, on May 12, 1954, and grew up in the Midwest. She received her BA in history from Macalaster College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and her MA in English from Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. Her fascination with Victorian British literature and culture drew her to Indiana University's interdisciplinary Victorian Studies program, and during her graduate years in Bloomington she served as editorial assistant and managing editor for the scholarly journal Victorian Studies. Allyn joined the staff of the American Historical Review in 1986, during the editorship of David L. Ransel, and as assistant editor for articles quickly made herself indispensable. During her 18 years of service, which continued under the editorship of Michael Grossberg, she shepherded hundreds of scholarly articles through the editorial and production process; many of them were subsequently awarded prizes. Her attention to detail, love of the English language, and respect for the intricacies of English prose style were unparalleled. The Chicago Manual of Style was her bible; she eagerly studied each new edition and rejoiced when the 15th edition was made available online.
As assistant editor for articles, Allyn helped to train and supervise both undergraduate interns and the graduate student editorial assistants whose labor is essential to the timely production of the American Historical Review. She loved this part of her job, and the profession will benefit for years to come from the cohort of historians whose tenure at the journal made them better writers and editors. Allyn became "the reader over the shoulder" of many a young scholar. The care she took at each stage of the production process also endeared her to the staff of Cadmus Press in Richmond, Virginia, where the journal is printed. At Cadmus Allyn forged a close bond with printer Thomas "Mac" McDaniel, whose expertise and devotion to craft she admired and whose good humor she relied on when deadlines pressed or difficulties arose. As a team, Allyn and Mac were formidable. Every issue of the journal for which they were responsible mailed in the month of its designation—no mean feat in the world of scholarly publications!
Outside of work, Allyn's passion was music. She had a beautiful voice and loved to sing folk songs and ballads, accompanying herself on guitar. She also enjoyed Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera, an enthusiasm dating to her undergraduate days at Macalaster, where she performed with fellow students. The family members, friends, and colleagues who attended Allyn's memorial service on October 30, 2004, were able to hear her sing one last time when a recording of her music was played. The melody lingers.
—Moureen Coulter, American Historical Review
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