John Jacobus Alewynse

John Jacobus Alewynse, 87, died April 20, 2024, after a long, increasingly difficult struggle with COPD. He was the son of a Dutch father and a German-American mother. Born in Orange, NJ, April 24, 1936, John passed his early childhood in rural Ohio. He prepped at Mount Herman School (Now Northfield-Mount Hermon) in Mount Hermon, MA, and took his undergraduate degree at Yale, from which he was graduated with honors in 1958. After subsequent degrees at Columbia and Yale, he completed his doctorate in Comparative Literature at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

A couple of years in New York City—in his case it was 101 Park Avenue, not Madison—convinced him that he wanted no part of the constraints of the nine-to-five life, not withstanding such amenities as club memberships and three-martini lunches. Instead, he opted for the relative freedom and satisfaction of the academic world. After positions at the College of William and Mary and Elon College, he joined the Department of English at Hampton University, from which he eventually retired decades later as Professor Emeritus of English. Over the course of his career at Hampton, he held a variety of administrative posts including Director of the Humanities Program and Dean of Freshman Studies and General Education. His primary focus, however, was always in the classroom, and he spent his most rewarding years as Chairman of the English Department. His efforts were directed toward developing curricula and programs that facilitated the teaching-learning process and when possible securing grants to help implement them. It was an ongoing source of pride that over a period of years under his leadership, the department was graduating more African American English majors than any school in the country. Many of those young people went on to highly selective graduate and law schools, for which they consistently reported finding themselves well prepared.

After returning to Williamsburg, John served ten years on the Williamsburg-James City County School Board, which he also chaired for two. Other board posts were as varied as WHRO, the Rita Welch Adult Literacy Program (now Literacy for Life) and the City of Williamsburg Board of Zoning Appeals. John was also pleased to represent his historic Chandler Court-Pollard Park neighborhood on the Neighborhood Council of Williamsburg. John is survived by his beloved wife, Dr. Joyce Jarrett Alewynse; four children from their blended family: Manon Ariadne Alewynse of Tampa, FL; Capt. Leen Alewynse (Dr. Michela Alewynse ) of Olney, MD; H. Mitchell Jarrett ( Atty. Danielle Brown) of Silver Springs, MD; and Tanya J. Jarrett, of Copenhagen, Denmark. He is also survived by his two granddaughters Dr. Brenna Leigh Alewynse and Harper Madeleine Jarrett and a niece Amadea Mitchell.

A memorial service was held at Williamsburg United Methodist Church on Sunday, May 5, 2024, at 2:00 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to the Dr. John J. Alewynse Scholarship Fund at Hampton University. Please ensure that checks made out to the university specify the scholarship name.