Terrence Des Pres Biography

Terrence Des Pres (born 1939 Effingham, Illinois - November 16, 1987 Hamilton, New York) was an American writer, and Holocaust scholar.


Terrence Des Pres graduated from Southeast Missouri State College in 1962. He went on to complete graduate degrees in philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis. He spent time with John Nathan at Harvard University as Harvard Junior Fellows, where Des Pres was the society's sommelier and they formed a friendship.

He was married twice and had a son, Jean-Paul, with his first wife Judith. His widow, Liz, is now a physician living in the Boston area.


Des Pres is most well known for his work on the Holocaust documented in: The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps.

At Colgate University he taught "Literature of the Holocaust" and was the William Henry Crawshaw Chair in Literature. At Colgate, he spent time with writer Frederick Busch.

He wrote Praises and Dispraises, published posthumously in 1988, which dealt with poetry and its usefulness for survival.


According to John Nathan's memoir, Des Pres committed suicide on November 16, 1987. Des Pres' death was ruled "accidental" by the Madison county medical examiners office, Madison, NY. According to a 1990 Boston Globe article, Des Pres died by hanging.

After his death, poet Paul Mariani spoke at a service for Des Pres at Colgate, where they may have spent time together as Mariani worked on his masters degree.