Roland Mushat Frye, scholar and author

Posted: January 19, 2005

Roland Mushat Frye, 83, of Strafford, an English literature scholar awarded the Bronze Star during World War II, died of complications from heart disease Thursday at Waverly Heights retirement community in Gladwyne.

Dr. Frye combined his expertise in literature, theology and art history to produce thoughtful tomes on subjects such as imagery in the works of John Milton, feminist language for God, and creationism.

He wrote 10 books and hundreds of scholarly articles, frequently exploring religious topics. In 1978, he cofounded the Center of Theological Inquiry in Princeton, an independent, ecumenical institution for advanced theological research.

Dr. Frye was a Presbyterian elder, most recently at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. His faith was "central," said his wife, Jean Steiner Frye, "but he was also a very, very good scholar."

Born in Birmingham, Ala., Dr. Frye earned three degrees, including his doctorate, from Princeton University. In 1943, he interrupted his studies to serve as an Army officer in World War II. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge and earned a Bronze Star for his service.

After the war, Dr. Frye joined the faculty of Emory University in Atlanta, where he worked with government officials to integrate the public schools. He became a research professor in residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, but missed teaching so much that he took a post at the University of Pennsylvania in 1965. He was the Schelling Professor of English Literature until his retirement in 1983.

Dr. Frye's books include the award-winning Milton's Imagery and the Visual Arts and Is God a Creationist: The Religious Case Against Creation-Science. Among his many awards are the American Philosophical Society's highest honor, the Thomas Jefferson Award.

In addition to his wife of 58 years, Dr. Frye is survived by son Roland M. Jr. and one grandson.

A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. tomorrow at the chapel at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church, 625 Montgomery Ave., Bryn Mawr. Burial is private.

Memorial donations may be made to the American Philosophical Society, 104 S. Fifth St., Philadelphia 19106.

Contact staff writer Kristin E. Holmes at 215-854-2791 or

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