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Adieu À Un Professeur Bien Aimé


Moskos wil be remembered for his inspiring teaching and concern for justice and equality—especially concerning sexual difference.

The College community mourns the Jan. 4 death of George Moskos, professor of French and James C. Hormel Professor in Social Justice. The College has lost a dedicated and talented teacher, a scholar eager to explore new intellectual territory, and a champion of justice and equality, wrote Maurice Eldridge, vice president for College and community relations and executive assistant to the president, in a letter to the College community. Moskos was 62 and is survived by his partner, Blair Gannon.

“George was intellectually vibrant and deeply embedded in French culture. He spoke exquisite French, and people often took him for a native speaker,” says Sibelan Forrester, professor of Russian and chair of the Modern Languages and Literatures Department. Hansjakob Werlen, professor of German, adds, “I learned so much about teaching from George—the way he engaged all students in class discussions allowed them to think expansively about the readings they had just completed and about the world.”

John Hassett, Susan W. Lippincott Professor Emeritus of Modern and Classical Languages, describes George as an “incredibly gifted language teacher” with a deep commitment not only to teaching his first love—19th-century French narrative—but also to the pedagogy of language teaching. “He was always looking for new and exciting ways to teach the language.”

Moskos joined the department in 1975 after earning a B.A. at Davidson College and a Ph.D. in French with a minor in art history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A specialist in 19th-century French literature, he often also explored themes of identity, gender, and sexuality, sometimes co-teaching with colleagues outside his discipline and taking an active role in the comparative literature and women’s studies programs.

Thompson Bradley, professor emeritus of Russian, saw Moskos’s approach to teaching literature change over the years. When, with Werlen, they both co-taught Red Star, a classic novel of the Russian revolution, Bradley suggests that Moskos emerged from that experience with his own postmodern theory (a reflection of his intense scholarly interest in contemporary literary criticism), seeing in this work, unlike his two colleagues, themes of gender bending and confusion. Bradley recalls that their weekly three-hour preparation meetings were some of the best and most vital discussions about art and politics he experienced during decades at Swarthmore.

Beyond his academic role, Moskos served on the Foreign Study and Sager committees as well as on the Faculty-Staff Benefits Committee, where he was instrumental in getting the College to support same-sex partner health benefits. He was also a director of the College’s program in Grenoble.

In 1997, Moskos was appointed to the James C. Hormel Professorship in Social Justice, a chair that recognizes a professor in any academic division whose teaching and scholarship stimulate increased concern for and understanding of social justice issues, including those pertaining to sexual orientation. Carole Netter, a lecturer in French, noted that the Hormel Professorship befitted the way Moskos lived his life: “George treated everyone with respect, gentleness, intellectual openness, and from a perspective of concern for justice and equality. He was a great defender of women and sexual difference.”

The high regard for Moskos felt by so many of his colleagues across the faculty is captured by one colleague and “buddy across the hall” for more than 30 years. Marion Faber, Scheuer Family Professor Emerita of Humanities and Professor Emerita of German, describes him as an inspiring teacher, charismatic and successful, loved not only by students but also faculty, hard working, high-spirited, and admired for his flair and sense of style.

College community members celebrated Moskos’s life at a Bond Hall gathering March 25.

—Adapted from a Jan. 10 message to the College community from the President’s Office.

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