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Robert Bartlett Haas dies at 94; longtime UCLA educator studied writings of Gertrude Stein

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Robert Bartlett Haas, a longtime UCLA educator who spent years immersed in the writings of Gertrude Stein, has died. He was 94.

Haas died April 20 in a hospital in Nuertingen, Germany, after a brief illness, said his son, Peter. He had spent most of his retirement years in Germany.

Haas' interest in Stein, the experimental American writer and poet, dated to his years as an undergraduate student at UC Berkeley. They started corresponding and finally met in 1946, shortly before her death in France at age 72.

Haas "was one of the young men who sought out Gertrude Stein as a mentor and was rewarded with years of encouragement and friendship and who, in turn, devoted a measure of his academic life to bolstering Stein's reputation," Timothy Young, curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale University's Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, told The Times in an e-mail. Young cataloged Stein's papers at Yale.

"My dad was a very complex guy," Peter Haas said. "He was kind of a little avant-garde, and Gertrude Stein was certainly an avant-garde poet."

Among his books about Stein was "A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein," published in 1971, in which he is credited as editor.

Jan Doane, an English professor at St. Mary's College of California in Moraga who wrote a 1986 book "Silence and Narrative: The Early Novels of Gertrude Stein," said Haas "really has an acute sense of her as a writer.... I think he understood her aesthetic goals."

Stein, whose Paris home became a salon for writers and artists, was a collector of works by Cubist and other modern artists such as Pablo Picasso. She tried to write as Cubists painted, experimenting with sentence structure and grammar, using fragments and repetitions such as "Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."

Haas was born Jan. 20, 1916, in Santa Cruz. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in English from UC Berkeley in 1938, a master's in English from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in education from Stanford.

He joined the UCLA faculty in 1949 and was the founding director of the school's arts and humanities extension division. Peter Haas said the program was envisioned as a way for teachers to broaden their skills with additional courses on a variety of subjects. Haas stayed with the program until his retirement in the late 1970s.

Haas also wrote a 1976 biography of pioneering photographer Eadweard Muybridge, "Muybridge: Man in Motion," and edited "William Grant Still and the Fusion of Cultures in American Music," a 1972 book about an African American composer and conductor.

Hass is also survived by another son, Robin, and longtime partner Ia Wech. His first wife, Louise Krause Haas, died in 1982, and a second marriage ended in divorce.

keith.thursby@latimes.com

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