Catherine Macksey, 70, French teacher

June 16, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Catherine Macksey, a former Johns Hopkins University teacher of French, literary scholar and translator, died Sunday night of cancer at her Guilford home. She was 70.

Remembered as a teacher who delighted students with her breadth of knowledge, Mrs. Macksey expected them to speak with precision and clarity. She developed an intensive course of study for motivated students that covered two years in two college terms.

"It was beautiful to hear her speak with her Southern accent. She had an unpredictable and delicious wit," said Carol Jacobs, a former student who is professor of English and German at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

"She was a marvelous story-teller."

Mrs. Macksey would receive students and friends in her home's commodious library, which was said to have the largest private book collection in the city.

She belonged to the Groupe Francais and the Circolo Italiano, Hopkins-based language and cultural studies clubs whose members she welcomed into her home.

"She spoke French and Italian so perfectly, so precisely," said Meme Irwin, director of Hopkins' Italian language program.

"But what I really recall is how she was such a gracious lady, the way she walked, the way she carried herself, her manner and her manners."

Born in Athens, Ga., the former Catherine Chance was the daughter of a Romance languages professor. She studied at Agnes Scott College and the University of Georgia, where she graduated summa cum laude in 1950 and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa. She won a Fulbright Fellowship to France, where she studied at the University of Grenoble.

While at Grenoble, she sang with the university choir in 1951-1952. It won second prize at the International Eisteddfod in Llangollen, Wales.

After returning to the United States, she taught at Agnes Scott and studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A French government assistantship then took her to Paris, where she studied at the Sorbonne and taught at the College Paul-Bert.

In 1956, she married Richard Macksey, former director of the Humanities Center at Hopkins and professor of comparative literature. They often worked together and she assisted him in translating and editing his books. He survives her.

She translated texts for "The Structuralist Controversy," "Velocities of Change" and "Intertextuality and Contemporary American Fiction."

In 1992, Stanford University Press published her translation of Vincent Descombes' "Proust: Theorie du roman."

Before her illness in 1997, she was working on a translation of a work by writer Philippe Borgeaud for the Hopkins Press.

In addition to her academic achievements, Mrs. Macksey was remembered for standing by family members when they were ill, putting their well-being ahead of her scholarship and academic career.

"She had the ability to meet with fortune and disaster and treat those two imposters the same," said Dr. Paul R. McHugh, a friend and neighbor.

Mrs. Macksey was active in the Friends of the Hopkins Library and was a Johns Hopkins Hospital volunteer worker.

She painted and studied with landscape artist Lamar Dodd.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Incarnation, St. Paul Street and University Parkway.

She also is survived by a son, Alan Macksey, and a granddaughter, Elizabeth Anne Macksey, both of Ruxton.

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