University at Buffalo professor Victor A. Doyno already was one of the foremost authorities on Mark Twain when he was thrown into the literary world’s spotlight in the 1990s.
That was when the missing first half of Twain’s manuscript for "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" was discovered in an attic in Los Angeles. For Doyno, the news was earthshaking.
"My mouth got dry. I felt a pulse in my head. It was absolutely a shock reaction," he told an interviewer in 1996 following the publication by Random House of a new edition of the novel, which included material that Mr. Doyno helped prepare from the manuscript.
He went on to do a book tour and media promotion, including an appearance on the "Today Show" with Katie Couric and a documentary for the Learning Channel.
He followed that with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, which allowed him to spend a semester doing a scientific examination of the handwritten pages to determine the evolution of Twain’s text. He compiled that in "Beginning to Write Huck Finn," published in 2002.
His other books included "Writing Huck Finn: Mark Twain’s Creative Process" in 1991 and "Mark Twain: Writings of an American Skeptic" (1993). He was co-editor of a CD-ROM, "The Complete Buffalo Manuscript Edition of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: Teaching and Research Digital Edition," and authored many essays and articles in academic journals.
He also provided introductions to "Captain Stormfield’s Visit to Heaven" and "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyberg," both works by Twain republished by Prometheus Books in 2002.
Mr. Doyno, who became a UB professor emeritus in 2004, died Nov. 16 in Harris Hill Nursing Facility, Clarence, after a long struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. He was 79.
Born July 12, 1937, in Chicago, he earned a bachelor’s degree from Miami University in Ohio, a master’s degree from Harvard University and a doctorate from the University of Indiana. He joined the UB faculty in 1969.
The recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, he specialized in medieval and Renaissance English literature and the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, as well as Twain -- who lived and worked in Buffalo from 1869 to 1871 -- and other American authors.
One of his former students, Scott Dalrymple, now president of Columbia College in Missouri, recently paid tribute to him, recalling, "He is one of the wisest, most generous people I’ve ever known. He edited in green pen because he worried that red ink might hurt your feelings. Yet he challenged me in different ways, proving that the nurturing approach could work, too."
He also taught classes on film and wrote film reviews for television.
He was an associate dean for undergraduate education and a member of the UB Faculty Senate.
He was a past president of the Mark Twain Circle, a nationwide association of Twain enthusiasts, and was a member of the board of directors of the Mark Twain Center at Quarry Farm in Elmira. He also was active in the Modern Language Association.
A Williamsville resident, he was active in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst and campaigned against drunken motorists through the Removing Intoxicated Drivers (RID) organization.
Survivors include his wife of 57 years, the former Ellen Kuchar; two sons, Dave and Ken; a daughter, Anna Tague; a brother, Robin; and nine grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Feb. 18 in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst, at 6320 Main Street, Williamsville.