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12 October 2021

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St Hugh’s Honorary Fellow and friend, Geneviève Adams, has died

It is with the deepest sorrow that the College has learnt of the death of our treasured former colleague and friend, Geneviève Adams, who had  been suffering from cancer.

Geneviève first joined St Hugh’s in Trinity Term 1996 while on sabbatical from her teaching post as Head of Languages at Withington Girls’ School in Manchester. She was permitted to take the sabbatical from the school on the condition that it be of a scholarly nature, and when she saw an advertisement in the Times Literary Supplement for a Teacher Fellow post at St Hugh’s, she knew she had to apply. During this time at the College, Geneviève focused her research on French women writers from the period of the French Revolution. After deciding to retire from schoolteaching, she moved to Oxford, and in 2004, Dr Michael Holland, Tutorial Fellow in French, asked her if she would be interested in doing some teaching for St Hugh’s. Thereafter she was made lecturer in French, providing language teaching to our undergraduates. She retired in Trinity 2018, having worked with the last two Fellows and the last three Principals of the College.

Geneviève was elected to an Honorary Fellowship in Trinity 2021 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to the College as Teacher Fellow and later as a lecturer, and for her teaching of French to pupils and students for over 50 years.

In January 2019, Geneviève had the extraordinary honour of being named a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes académiques, bestowed by the decree of the Prime Minister of France, for her ‘remarkable commitment to the service of education.’

St Hugh’s Principal, Dame Elish Angiolini said, ‘We are very saddened to learn of Geneviève’s passing. She was a great friend of the College and an outstanding Tutor. Geneviève was passionate about teaching and believed that learning a foreign language could enrich people’s lives whatever their age. She gave so much to the College and I know all of us will have very fond memories of this warm, kind friend and colleague who will be greatly missed.’

Associate Professor and Tutorial Fellow in French, Ève Morisi said, ‘As a teacher, Geneviève was as rigorous as she was generous. Every year, one could be sure that, with her, the students were in the best possible hands when faced with the most arcane rules of French grammar and the rigid codes that define the French ‘dissertation’. It was a joy to team up with such an expert teaching partner, whose natural authority and passion shone through. Both a Parisienne who knew the quartier du Gros-Caillou by heart and a Bourguignonne who loved nothing more than to return to Arcy-sur-Cure outside of term, Geneviève shared her deep love for and knowledge of her native culture with numerous cohorts of undergraduates. She did so through patient explanations, humorous anecdotes, and, sometimes, outings that are still well remembered–such as afternoon teas or a visit to the Café de Flore. As a friend, Geneviève was fiercely loyal, warm, tactful and funny. Her intellectual curiosity, love of contemporary visual art, travel, current affairs, and literature also made her an always engaging conversationalist in College. St Hugh’s was genuinely her second home and family. Her strength of character, poise, love of life, and dedication to her students and friends will be immensely missed, but never forgotten.’


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