Tribute to Marilyn Gaddis Rose

This piece was contributed to the ALTA blog by Marian Schwartz.

On November 15, 2015, Professor Marilyn Gaddis Rose, a towering presence in translation studies and a great friend not just of literary translation but of ALTA in particular, died.

María Constanza Guzmán has written a full-length remembrance of Professor Rose that appeared igaddis-rose-m2n the latest issue of Source, the quarterly publication of ATA’s Literary Division, and there have been many other remembrances.[1] Emphasized over and over in them has been her generosity toward those coming up behind her and her tireless efforts to strengthen translation studies and its scholars.

I, at least, always believed that she had our back, that she had the fortitude and wit to move from intention to action on behalf of literary translation and especially literary translators.

Literary translator and scholar Doug Robinson wrote:

“Marilyn was one of the great leaders of Translation Studies–not just as a scholar of literary translation but as an organizer, a networker, someone who brought people together and made exciting things happen. She had a knack for making friends, and making them friends of friends, and getting them thinking about alliances and connections that they wouldn’t have been thinking about without her nudging. There are precious few people like that in any field, and they are worth their weight in gold. The history of TS over the last forty years–especially in the US, but internationally as well–would have been radically different without the networking genius of Marilyn.”

And Kim Allen Gleed, a Professor of English and French at Harrisburg Area Community College, earned her PhD in Comparative Literature with a concentration in Translation Studies at Binghamton University (SUNY), where she established a lifetime friendship with Professor Rose:

Remembering Marilyn Gaddis Rose, by Kim Allen Gleed

“You’ve done enough research and planning and thinking.  Now just sit down and write.”  I can still hear the advice Professor Rose gave me when I was writing my dissertation, for which she was my primary advisor.  I have been hearing her words again over the past weeks, with my every attempt to sit down and write this tribute to one of the most important people in my life.  Nothing I say will every fully capture what she meant to me, to all of us who knew her, but I shall follow my mentor’s advice nonetheless.

Anyone who was fortunate enough to know and love Marilyn Gaddis Rose is certainly still feeling deeply the pain of her recent passing.  On November 15th, 2015, we lost an amazing friend, teacher, mentor, scholar, and translator.  In the days following her death, many of us reached out to each other and shared stories and special memories of this incredible woman, and those anecdotes revealed the many facets of Marilyn’s personality, from her incredible intellect and genuine brilliance in the classroom, to her abiding kindness, her well-timed, dry wit, and abundant generosity.  As someone who knew her very well for nearly 20 years, I witnessed and experienced all of these characteristics of her personality, and they are the hallmarks of the woman she was and are symbolic of the gifts she bestowed upon all of us.

I first met Professor Rose in July 1995, when I moved to Binghamton, NY to study with her at Binghamton University (SUNY).  It was several weeks before the semester began, and since I was interested in translation, the secretary in the Comparative Literature department sent me two floors down to meet the woman who would be teaching one of the courses I had just chosen for fall.  Even in the summer, Marilyn was working in her office, but stopped to welcome me warmly and introduce me to everyone on the floor.  In the years that followed, I saw her do this with every new graduate student who arrived.  It makes a difference to be brought into the fold like this, and this is just one example of the kindnesses that Marilyn showed every day.

It goes without saying, certainly, that she was a remarkably talented teacher.  Her classes were engaging, and as many of us who studied with her have pointed out, she managed them like a French Enlightenment-era salon, with thoughtful, energetic discussions and an exchange of ideas through conversation.  She loved being in the classroom, and the sparkle in her eye was unmistakable when she was working with one of her favorite pieces of literature or discussing translation.  I not only studied under her, but as I progressed thorough my PhD, had the opportunity to co-teach with her, an experience that I will always cherish.  She nurtured and encouraged her students, and I know I speak for many when I say I hope to live up to her example in my own classrooms.

I don’t know that I have ever met anyone as generous as Marilyn Gaddis Rose.  She was a passionate supporter of animal rights in her vegetarian lifestyle and choices of charities, and she also devoted her time and resources to local arts associations in Binghamton, NY.  She created a scholarship for graduate students studying translation at Binghamton University, and I was honored to be among the recipients of that award.  She never forgot a friend or a staff member at the holidays, including Valentine’s Day, which she once told me was her favorite.  Her presents were sometimes a bit quirky—a cuddly plush turkey she gave me one Thanksgiving makes me smile every year when I decorate—but were always given with love and an open heart.

Marilyn was also the most intelligent person I have ever known, and she will likely retain that title.  She knew seemingly everything, and discussed erudite topics as though they were common knowledge, not because she wanted to use her intellect to raise herself up or bring someone else down, but because they actually seemed like common knowledge to her.  Didn’t everyone know that Jane Austen is buried in Winchester Cathedral and that Korean families celebrate a child’s 100th day with a huge party?  Of course these two examples connect directly to Marilyn’s taste in literature and love of her granddaughters, but her encyclopedic knowledge extended to all fields, and all with equal humility.

Those of us who knew Professor Rose well would probably agree that while she was not necessarily the most expressive of her feelings in overt ways, we all always knew we were cherished.  In nearly 20 years, I think I may have hugged her (and quite briefly) only five times, but that fact does not diminish the deep friendship we shared and the love that I know was reciprocal.  When I last saw her, in August 2015, she could no longer speak or even smile, but when I told her that I had been promoted to Professor, she cried.

“I think you’ve been revising long enough.  It’s time to turn it in.  It will never be perfect.  It will never say everything you want it to say.”  Of course, when Professor Rose gave me that advice, it was about my dissertation, but the same applies to this tribute.  No piece of writing could ever capture everything she meant to me or to any of us who loved her, but this will have to do.  Marilyn Gaddis Rose was among the most influential and cherished individuals in my life and the lives of the many people who knew her.  She inspired us to be better scholars, teachers, translators, and human beings.  May we all keep her memory alive as we live up to the example she set for us daily.


[1] See the Friends of Professor Rose page on Facebook.

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