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In Memoriam: Huguette-Laure Knox

May 15, 2018

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. – Huguette-Laure Knox, the lecturer emerita in French who taught during the academic year in the French Department and during summer sessions of the French School, passed away on May 11 at her home in North Bethesda, Md.
 
Huguette Knox joined the Middlebury College French Department in 1969 and taught until her retirement in 2004. She was a lead teacher when the Language Schools instituted its Intensive Language Program for undergraduates in 1973, and for over 20 years she taught the Introduction to Contemporary France course during the academic year, thereby preparing hundreds of Middlebury students for study in France. Based on what her colleagues called an encyclopedic knowledge of contemporary France, that course also led to publication in France of multiple editions of the textbook Plus ça change: la France entre hier et demain (Hatier-Didier: 1987), coauthored with her husband, College Professor Emeritus of French Edward C. Knox.
 
Madame Knox loved to recall the letter a student sent her, relating that in his first week in Paris he had attended a street demonstration and thanks to her course had understood all the themes and slogans. Never one to keep her opinions unexpressed, she also made The Campus newspaper when she told students if they were planning to study abroad for only one semester, then they would be “tourists.”
 
Huguette’s intellectual curiosity and enthusiasms made her a mainstay at campus lectures, concerts and theatre productions. An ardent traveler and hiker, she returned annually to France while also developing a special affection for the American Southwest. As a gracious host and fine cook, she entertained junior and senior faculty alike, as well as colleagues from across the Language Schools.
 
Middlebury Trustee and former CNN Correspondent Frank Sesno ’77 studied French with Madame Knox and said, “She helped me learn a beautiful language and discover a rich culture when I was a student at Middlebury. I became friends with Huguette and Ed, and Huguette was a source of delight through the years, always with her infectious laugh, her devotion to family, and her passion for her native France.
 
“I think Huguette had a romance with life,” continued Sesno. “She brought energy into every room, wit to any conversation, and a unique perspective to her observations about everything. Her courage and her eloquence through her illness revealed her remarkable strength. I am fortunate beyond words to have known and learned from Huguette Knox in so many ways. She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.”
 
Nancy O’Connor, the Lois Watson professor emerita of French, taught alongside Huguette for decades and remarked: "I had come to think of Huguette as a force of nature; it is hard to believe that resilient as she was she has been laid low. Though we didn't always see eye to eye – and who does over 40 years? – she was a generous friend and a demanding and widely respected mentor to her students.”
 
A native of Beaulieu-sur-mer on the French Riviera, she was educated at the Université d’Aix-Marseille, and held the national CAPES degree in English. She came to the United States in 1965, teaching French at the Independent Day School, Durham, Conn., and at the Yale University summer session, where she used early sheets from what would one day become Pierre Capretz’s video-based language course French in Action.
 
Huguette and her husband, Edward, moved to Cleveland in 1966, and taught at Case Western Reserve University for three years. She also served as pedagogical consultant in French with the Educational Research Council.

Huguette’s lucidity and courage during her long illness and difficult treatment were an inspiration to her many friends and family. A devoted spouse, mother and grandmother, she leaves her husband Ed; sons Olivier, of Bethesda, and Christophe, of Paris; daughters-in-law Jennifer Lewis and Gabrielle Laurens; and grandsons Oscar, Félix and Marcel.

A memorial gathering is scheduled for July 22, during the Language Schools' summer session. Gifts in her memory may be made to the Montgomery Hospice of Rockville, Md.

1 Comment

I hope it's not too late to make a comment about Huguette. She was very kind to me when I came to Middlebury in the fall of 1995, and, not too long after, she asked me to sing some classical French music for a French Department program, making me feel included in the college beyond the Music Department. She was such a gracious and elegant lady. And having lived abroad in three different countries over the span of 13 years, I agree with her statement that if you only live in a foreign country for 6 months you have only
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been a tourist - I found myself moving onto a very different plateau of experiencing a new country each time I passed the 6 month mark - so I too would recommend at least a full school year abroad for any language student.
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by Lia Kahler (not verified)

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