Mark Twain Scholar Prepares a Legacy for the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College

June 29 2017
Category: Twain

John and Patty have noted how every gift to the Center is wisely used to continue the rich heritage and relevancy of Mark Twain, his works, and his world for present and new generations to come.

Mark Twain Scholar John Pascal and his wife Patty have made plans to leave a quarter of their estate to the Center for Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College. Inspired by his late parents, John has a lifelong interest in literature, but has a special appreciation for Mark Twain. John has presented about Twain at two International Conferences on the State of Mark Twain Studies at Elmira College, at a lecture for the Park Church Lecture Series in Elmira, and at two Inaugural Samuel Clemens Conferences in Hannibal, Missouri.

John Pascal with Dr. Thomas Meier

In 2009, at his first International Mark Twain Conference at Elmira College, John met the late Dr. Thomas K. Meier, president of the College at the time, who suggested that John apply for a Mark Twain grant to conduct his research. John took advantage of this suggestion and the results culminated in a chapter written for a new book, Mark Twain and Youth: Studies in his Life and Writings published in 2016. In it John describes in vivid detail how he teaches Mark Twain and his works to secondary school students in the twenty-first century, a topic he has lectured on frequently and from personal experience. He has also reviewed works for the Mark Twain Forum.

Cover of the book "Mark Twain and Youth" Cover of John Pascal's thesis on Artemus Ward

However, John was not always a Mark Twain Scholar and teacher. After eighteen years in the corporate world working managerial positions at Bell Telephone, Macy’s, and as a NASDAQ special investigator with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney’s Office, John decided to pursue teaching. For the past 17 years he has taught English at the oldest Catholic boys’ school in New Jersey, Seton Hall Preparatory School. There he works with ninth through twelfth grade students instructing them on literature, writing, communication, and sharing his fondness for all things Twain.

In recognition of his contributions to Mark Twain Studies, Seton Hall Preparatory School supported John in creating a new elective: Writings of Mark Twain. This class may be the only one of its kind in the United States on the secondary school level, and possibly the world. Now in its second year, John shares the life, world, and works of Mark Twain to a full classroom. The class has visited the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, Connecticut, and with other Twain Scholars around the country in John’s network developed through conferences at Elmira College.

Outside the classroom, John was the recipient of Seton Hall Prep’s Annual Salvatore N. Caprio Award. This award is given to “A teacher, moderator, and counselor who is generous in time, patience, and concern.” He is the moderator of the Student Council, Future Lawyers Club, Medical Leaders Club, Business Leaders Club, and Museums Club.

In terms of his own educational background, John graduated cum laude from Villanova University in Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He also earned two master’s degrees, business administration from Seton Hall University and English with a concentration in American literature from Montclair State University. He was awarded the Lawrence Conrad Memorial Scholarship for Excellence in the Study of American Literature by Montclair University’s English Department. In 2009, his thesis “Artemus Ward: the Gentle Humorist” was selected and published in book form by VDM Publishing House Ltd. John’s work demonstrates how Ward was arguably our country's first national humorist prior to the emergence of Mark Twain. He further argues that Ward instilled in Twain the possibilities of being a comedic writer as well as having a profound influence on Twain’s lecturing style, which Twain himself acknowledged in his essay “How to Tell a Story."

John’s wife, Patty, who fully supports his Twain connections, has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s degree in Mesoamerican studies. She is currently finishing her Ph.D. dissertation in Colonial Mayan Medicine manuscripts at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

In late July 2013, John presented his peer-reviewed work at the Twain Conference about one week after they were married. The entire group of Twain Scholars welcomed Patty to their circle of friendship. On January 9, 2017, Patty fulfilled her dream of becoming an American citizen. John says proudly, “She was the only representative from Colombia and now she is a representative for all of us!”

John and Patty Pascal as Patty becomes a U.S. Citizen

Elmira College is the guardian of Quarry Farm and the Mark Twain Study, where Mark Twain, his wife, Olivia Langdon and their family, summered for decades in Elmira, New York. Quarry Farm was a gift from the descendants of Olivia Langdon, closed to the public, but open to scholars from around the world interested in doing Twain-related research. Quarry Farm is also where Mark Twain wrote some of his most famous novels including The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

John and Patty Pascal in the Mark Twain Study on the Elmira College campus Mark Twain's Study on the Elmira College campus

The Pascals have supported the Center for Mark Twain Studies and will continue to do so throughout the coming years. Their future estate gift will provide much needed financial support to the ongoing research at the Center. John and Patty have noted how every gift to the Center is wisely used to continue the rich heritage and relevancy of Mark Twain, his works, and his world for present and new generations to come. It was only fitting when John and Patty considered their legacy that they would give generously to what has been the passion of a lifetime.