Philip Fintan Deaver

August 14, 1946April 29, 2018


Philip Fintan Deaver, Jr., author and educator, died April 29, 2018, after a long illness. Until his retirement in 2016, he had been Professor of English at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.

Phil’s life will be celebrated in two memorial services. In Winter Park, services will be held in the Knowles Memorial Chapel at Rollins College, on Tuesday, May 8, at 11:00 a.m., followed by a gathering in the adjoining garden. A second service will be held in Phil’s hometown of Tuscola, Illinois, on Saturday, May 19, with a visitation at 10:00 a.m. and service at 11:00 a.m. at the Hilligoss Shrader Funeral Home, followed by a luncheon at Flesor’s Candy Kitchen. In a private ceremony, he will be buried next to his parents in the Tuscola Township Cemetery.

Survivors include children Michael (Nicole) and Laura (Brian Waterfield) of Orlando and Daniel of Brooklyn, New York; granddaughters Sofia, Maya, and Emory; sister Maureen (John Purcell) of Indianapolis; paternal uncle Father Stephen Deaver of Scottsbluff, Nebraska; several nieces and nephews and one great niece; and, at last count, over 40 first cousins from all over the U.S. He was preceded in death by his parents, Dr. Philip and Althea Samples Deaver.

Phil was born in Chicago on the first anniversary of VJ Day, August 14, 1946. In January 1947, the family relocated downstate to Tuscola, where his father opened a medical practice. Growing up in Tuscola, Phil was known to many as Danny, after Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “Danny Deever”—a nickname given up by most when Phil's father died.

After graduating from Tuscola schools, Phil earned a bachelor’s degree in English from St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Indiana. Following military service in Germany, Phil received his masters degree and a Mott Fellowship at Ball State University and his doctorate from the University of Virginia.

During several years in administration at Murray State University, Phil became increasingly involved in writing groups, began publishing short fiction, and set his hopes on one day teaching creative writing at the college level. After moving to Orlando and during several years in management consulting, he embedded himself in the local writing scene and published Silent Retreats (University of Georgia Press 1988), a collection of short stories.

Phil's critical recognition included the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, and Special Mention in Pushcart Prize XX. His short fiction appeared in many literary journals, including Florida Review, Kenyon Review, New England Review, and Missouri Review. His work appeared in Best American Short Stories, Best American Catholic Short Stories, and Bottom of the Ninth; Great Contemporary Baseball Short Stories, where his story “Infield” drew on memories of playing baseball as a youth. A lifelong fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, Phil edited a collection of nonfiction essays on baseball titled Scoring from Second: Writers on Baseball (University of Nebraska Press 2007), which includes a photograph of Phil and his dad, in step, leaving Busch Stadium in the early 1960s.

Phil also published a collection of his poetry in How Men Pray (Anhinga Press 2005) and his novel Forty Martyrs (Burrow Press 2016). One of his greatest professional joys was having Garrison Keillor, on four occasions, read his poetry on National Public Radio's “Writer’s Almanac.”

Phil completed his education career as a professor at Rollins College, where he taught, wrote, and hosted celebrated writers at Rollins’ annual Winter With the Writers program. Phil also offered writing workshops throughout the country and taught fiction at Spalding University's masters of fine arts program.

With his own love of baseball, Phil's started as a Midwestern Baseball Dad to his own children, but after the family moved to Orlando, that role soon morphed into a longer and prouder career as Florida Soccer Dad to Michael, Daniel, and Laura. He took great pride in seeing them compile a total of three undergraduate and two graduate degrees from Rollins College. And he found great joy in the arrival of granddaughters Sofia, Maya, and Emory.

In fulfilling his dreams of teaching and writing, Phil inspired countless students, whether in classrooms or cafes, with his advice, great humor and generosity. And he will be remembered with great affection by the family and friends he leaves behind.


  • Memorial Service

    Tuesday, May 8, 2018

  • Visitation

    Saturday, May 19, 2018

  • Funeral Service

    Saturday, May 19, 2018


Philip Fintan Deaver

have a memory or condolence to add?


February 15, 2021

I just now (February 2021) learned that Phil had passed. We were classmates at St. Joe and corresponded just a few years ago. Obviously, we had lost touch but I had always planned on "tipping one" with him, maybe upon a visit to his sister in Indianapolis. There was so much I wanted to tell him and so much I wanted to ask him. His spirit and his writing were inspired with wisdom. He will be missed.

Greg Byrd

May 25, 2018

I knew Phil casually for 15-20 years through other Florida writing friends. What I remember most about Phil was him reading "Sugar" from his book of poems How Men Pray and a time I got to know him a little when we were on faculty at a writer's conference at the Florida Institute of Technology. We shared dinners and talked craft and other things. Phil's keynote address was absolutely brilliant in structure and execution. The title was "The Difference Between Fiction and Nonfiction," but Phil didn't lay out criteria and apply them to established stories and essays. He began telling us a story that happened in Ohio about stopping by an old girlfriend's house and what happened after that. Then, he pivoted and said "of course I didn't stop--that's the difference between fiction and nonfiction." He worked it out more than that, but it was a pleasure to watch his mind work, without notes, on the podium. Even though I wasn't one of his students, I'm still conscious of trying to incorporate the wisdom I found in his work and his friendship.

Mattie Scull

May 12, 2018

The summer before I came to Rollins, I had to choose my preferences for my Rollins Conference Course. The RCC classes were designed to guide students through their first semester at Rollins. Students meet with the professors of those courses during freshman orientation and attend the class for the whole semester, and the professors ensure students acclimate to college. I knew I wanted to study English, and the titles of the English-related courses all sounded appealing. As a deciding factor, I researched the backgrounds of the English professors on the Rollins website, and I read Dr. Deaver's bio. It's funny how a short paragraph or two can give give you a glimpse into someone's life. I listed Dr. Deaver's class as my number one choice.

That August I met Dr. Deaver, sitting in his RCC class, Reading and Writing Short Stories. While I did read and write short stories, I did so much more as a part of Dr. Deaver's class. He didn't teach us to just read and analyze literature but to connect it to what it said about human nature. Dr. Deaver listened to our ups and downs and carefully read each of our stories, responding with genuine suggestions and compliments where due. I think my favorite memory of that semester was when Dr. Deaver, on his scooter, led the class, on bicycles, through Winter Park to the Enzian theater. I remember it being a comical sight, twelve college students following him like ducklings. At the end of the semester, I cherished the feedback he gave me on my final story. He encouraged me to keep writing.

After that, Dr. Deaver remained my academic advisor. I only wish I told him that I picked his class because I knew he would be an amazing professor. My condolences go out to Dr. Deaver's family, and thank I them for sharing him with the Rollins community. He touched so many of our lives.

Dani del pico

May 8, 2018

My deepest condolences to the Deaver family for their loss. I had the pleasure of being taught, albeit briefly, by Professor Deaver in 2015. He had an intrepid intellect and a wicked sense of humor. I remember how attentively he listened to the students and made them feel like they were the only one in the room. He was always so encouraging and careful with every word he spoke. He was such a kind soul and will be missed very much.

Andrea Williamson

May 8, 2018

I had Professor Deaver for a series of creative writing classes from 2004-2007. I remember being intimidated by taking creative writing classes, especially in college. I wasn't sure what being a writer meant or entailed. And I definitely wasn't sure if I had anything worthy to share. But Professor Deaver created such a supportive environment in his classes that our whole class was able to relax and get to work.

He gave us the room we needed to explore who we were as writers and to find our own voice. He also created a space where feedback and criticism were welcomed. At the end of the day, he always stressed how much he believed in our value as writers. That's a gift that will stay with all of his students. He knew that writing comes with rejection. And from my perspective, he always wanted us to know that someone believed in us. That if we wanted to keep writing, we'd always have at least one fan out there.

I'll miss Professor Deaver immensely. He's had a phenomenal impact on my life and I'll always cherish his lessons. I extend my deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Charlene Edge

May 8, 2018

My husband, Hoyt Edge, and I send our deepest condolences to Phil's family and friends. I first met Phil in 1994 in a writing class, and over the years he never failed to encourage me to keep the pen moving. I've written a memorial on my website, so I invite you to visit
attached photo was taken in our home at a thank you dinner in 2012 for Phil and author, Rachel Newcomb (right), for their helpful input on my memoir.

Wendy White Goddard

May 5, 2018

In my 28-year journey to a B.A. degree in English, I landed at Rollins in the mid-90s. I attended as many writing classes as my catalog would allow without actually being enrolled in the writing minor. While I never took one of Phil’s classes, he spoke in several of my seminars and always made himself available. In the winter of 2000, one of my memoir pieces was accepted for review and critique in a Winter with the Writers Thursday afternoon Master Class. Anne Beatty gave an abrupt and dismissive assessment of my work. Phil sought me out afterwards, offering consolation and encouragement, letting me know he felt I had been treated unnecessarily harshly. His compassion and generosity comfort me to this day. Phil Deaver told me I was a writer, and I am.