Carol Rifelj, Jean Thompson Fulton Professor Emerita of French, died October 26, 2010, at home with her family, after a courageous four-year battle with cancer. Few colleagues have made a more substantial mark on the faculty and Middlebury College than Carol, and she is deeply missed by many in the community.
Carol Dobay Rifelj received her undergraduate degree from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, and her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin at Madison. She came to Middlebury in 1972 as an Assistant Professor, serving also at that time as Director of the Château, and of the French House. Carol received tenure in 1979, was promoted to the rank of Full Professor in 1985, and was named Jean Thomson Fulton Professor of French in 1993. She retired from Middlebury in spring 2010 after 38 years on the faculty.
Carol was both a gifted teacher and a distinguished scholar. In French language and literature courses at all levels, Carol’s passion, intellect, and knowledge of her subject won great praise from students, and many colleagues in the French department and elsewhere in the College benefited from her mentoring in developing their own teaching.
In addition to numerous articles or essays on topics as varied as 18th, 19th, and 20th-century literature, the use of technology in the language or literature classroom, and the mystery novel, Carol was the author of several books. She co-authored, with Ed Knox, the conversation manual C’est-à-dire, published by Harcourt Brace Jovanovich in 1980. Her book, Word and Figure: The Language of 19th-Century French Poetry, was published in 1987 by the Ohio State University Press, and Reading the Other: Novels and the Problem of Other Minds appeared in 1992 from the University of Michigan Press. Her most recent book, Coiffures: Hair in 19th-Century French Literature and Culture, was published in May 2010 by the University of Delaware Press.
Carol was also active and innovative in electronic publication, producing a significant website, Le Lexique, that won a prize in 1996 from the American Association of Teachers of French and has continued to be an influential resource for French teachers worldwide.
Carol received many highly competitive grants and awards, including a post-doctoral fellowship at the School of Criticism and Theory, an NEH Fellowship in Residence for College Teachers at Yale, and an ACLS Fellowship.
During her time on the faculty, Carol served on all of the College’s major committees, including the Promotions Committee, the Educational Affairs Committee, Faculty Council, and the Curriculum Committee. She was also appointed to several key ad hoc committees, including the Library Planning Committee, the Bicentennial Committee, and a Presidential Search Committee. She also held several administrative positions over the years, serving as Dean of the French School from 1985 to 1987, Dean of the Faculty from 1991 to 1993, and as the Dean for Faculty Development and Research when that position was newly created and appointed at the start of my own presidency in 2004. Carol brought all of her talents and years of experience to bear in her service in this last role. As Dean of Faculty Development and Research, she was an unstinting supporter, advocate, and mentor of a new generation of faculty colleagues, and I know she took great pride in the accomplishments of junior colleagues that she helped to hire and support.