Christopher Franklin Carroll, a descendant of one of the founders of the University of Arizona who went on to become a beloved literary figure at the school, has died.

Carroll, 76, died at home Monday, surrounded by loved ones at the historic Franklin House at 402 N. Main St., which has been in his family since 1898.

He'd recently been diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a lung disease, family members said.

Carroll was the grandson of Selim M. Franklin, a member of the 13th Arizona Territorial Legislature who helped found UA in 1885.

He started teaching English literature at the school in 1965.

Sitting cross-legged atop his desk at the front of the classroom, a pose that became one of his hallmarks, Carroll taught generations of students for four decades until his retirement in 2006.

"There was always a twinkle in his eye, as if we were his cohorts in a great game of literature," recalled Tucson native and novelist Thomas Cobb, best known for his book "Crazy Heart," the basis for the 2009 film of the same name.

Cobb went on to become an English professor at an East Coast college, where he taught classes sitting cross-legged atop his desk "because that's how Chris did it," he said.

Carroll received many accolades over the years and was one of the first UA faculty members awarded "distinguished professor" status in 1995.

His speciality was medieval literature, and he would often act out scenes from Chaucer in class, providing a one-man show for students, said his wife, Susan Hardy Aiken, also a distinguished professor of literature at the UA.

In a nomination letter for a teaching award, one of Carroll's students compared him to actor Robin Williams' character in the 1989 film "Dead Poets Society," Aiken said.

Besides being a talented teacher, Carroll also was a longtime advocate for historic preservation and downtown revitalization, his wife said.

The couple renovated their Franklin House in El Presidio district, Tucson's oldest neighborhood. As well, Carroll rehabbed part of a downtown streetscape on East Congress Street that housed the original Dinnerware art gallery and the now-defunct Cafe Magritte, she said.

Carroll also is survived by sons Joshua Carroll, Zachary Carroll and James Aiken; daughters Amy Carroll and Alden Carroll; a sister, MaryRose Duffield; and a brother, Dr. John Carroll.

Funeral services are still being arranged. A private service is expected with a public memorial to follow.

Contact reporter Carol Ann Alaimo at or at 573-4138.