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William (Bill) Edmund Messenger was a professor of English at UBC from 1966 to 1988. He was born in Independence, Missouri, in February 1931 to Edmund Earl Messenger and Inga Therese Messenger (née Enger). He attended elementary schools in Kansas City, Missouri; Kansas City, Kansas; Merriam, Kansas; and Everett, Washington. He spent two years at Everett Junior College and majored in Architectural Engineering. From there, he began working at the Boeing Aircraft Company in Seattle. While working at Boeing, he entered the United States Air Force, where he learned and taught electronics for four years. After leaving the Air Force, he went back to Boeing.
In 1955, Messenger entered the University of Washington Seattle and completed a BA in English in 1956. In September 1957, he began graduate work at Cornell University as a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow and continued on a Cornell University Junior Graduate Fellowship in 1958 and 1959. At Cornell, Messenger met Ann Parshall, who was also a student of English. After graduation, he taught at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. In 1960, Bill and Ann were married in Ann's hometown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the early 1960s, Messenger began post-graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1968, Messenger received his doctorate from Berkley and became an Assistant Professor at UBC in 1969, moving to Associate Professor in 1982. His areas of particular interest were nineteenth and twentieth-century British and American fiction and the works of writer Joseph Conrad.
William Messenger co-authored and co-edited several works during his career at UBC, including The Canadian Writers Handbook (1980, 1986, and 1995), Active Voice (1980, 1996, 1991), Literature in English (1993), and Elements of Writing: A Process Rhetoric for Canadian Students (1984). Messenger was also active in the academic literary community. He served as the Canadian National Editor for the editorial board of the international scholarly journal Conradiana from 1969 to 1980, contributed several papers and reviews on the topics of Conrad and Melville for various other academic literary journals, and was a member of numerous professional and learned societies. Messenger's pursuits included creating games and word puzzles, and he contributed a regular puzzle column called Triple Ploy to Western Living Magazine in the 1970s and 1980s. Messenger also enjoyed cooking and gardening and produced two works of fiction: a sea-themed novel entitled The Last Horizon and a murder mystery called A Necessary End that he co-wrote with Ann Parshall Messenger under the pseudonym Edmond Carey; both of which remained unpublished.
In 1988, Messenger retired and spent the next eight years caring for his wife. Ann Parshall Messenger died in Vancouver, Canada, in February 1996 of cancer. After his wife's death, William Messenger donated part of his collection of books to the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University Libraries. He also provided endowments to UBC for the Ann and William Messenger Fellowship in Graduate Education and the Ann and William Messenger Graduate Fellowship. On June 15, 2003, William Messenger died in Vancouver, Canada, from pneumonia and complications related to Alzheimer's Disease.