04/21/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT
Clifton Keith Hillegass, 83, who allowed millions of American students to save face with his hugely successful Cliffs Notes, died in his Nebraska home on Saturday, reports The New York Times. He had suffered a stroke last month. According to the Times, Hillegass's study guides began in his basement in 1958, after he procured a $4,000 bank loan. The first Cliffs Notes detailed 16 Shakespearean plays. By 1989, Forbes magazine reported that with more than 220 titles, Cliffs Notes was making $11 million a year. Since 1958, more than 50 million Notes have reportedly been sold.