Guy Mermier, professor emeritus of French, died March 23 at the U-M Hospital.
Mermier was a teacher and scholar of medieval French literature in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.
He was born in 1931 in Grenoble, France, and lived through the occupation during World War II. He first came to the United States on a Fulbright grant to Amherst College. He received his Licence and Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures degrees from the University of Grenoble in 1953 and 1954, and earned his doctorate in romance languages and literatures from the University of Pennsylvania in 1961. He came to U-M as an instructor in French in 1961-62, and returned as assistant professor of French in 1963. He was promoted to the rank of professor in 1980, and retired in 1998.
Mermier was an internationally recognized specialist in medieval French and Provencal literature. His publications include many scholarly books, editions and translations of major Old French text, as well as more than 40 articles. Just prior to his death, he was translating a 15th century manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University. This past summer, he was honored as a fellow in the Mediterranean Studies Association.
A dedicated teacher and colleague, Mermier served on many departmental committees and on the Rackham executive board, the academic judiciary and the Senate Assembly. He directed the Michigan-Wisconsin academic year in Aix-en-Provence three times. He chaired and co-chaired 14 doctoral dissertation committees and was a member of many more. Mermier’s work as an academic adviser to undergraduates was recognized in 1995 by the Ruth Sinclair Award for concentration advising. He also received an LSA Excellence in Education Award in 1994. From 1980-97 he directed the Medieval and Renaissance Collegium, an interdisciplinary undergraduate program that was the forerunner of today’s Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. The French government honored his achievements with membership in the “Ordre des Palmes Académiques,” first at the rank of chevalier and subsequently at that of officier.
Colleagues say Mermier will be remembered by generations of Michigan students as a learned, warm and dynamic teacher, as a dedicated promoter of medieval studies, and as a patient and generous academic adviser and mentor. His family and coworkers say they also will remember him for his intelligence, generosity of spirit and fine sense of humor.
Mermier is survived by his wife of 57 years, Martha, his two daughters Catherine and Christine, granddaughters Alexandra and Elizabeth, sister Yvette, brother Paul, as well as many nieces and nephews, both in France and in the United States.
A memorial service is scheduled for 4 p.m. April 23 in the Kuenzel Room of the Michigan Union.
— Submitted by William Paulson, Department of Romance Languages & Literatures
Richard Bailey, an internationally renowned scholar of the English language, who contributed significantly to nearly every subject of interest in English language studies, died April 2 at his home in Ann Arbor. He was 71.
Bailey taught in the Department of English Language and Literature for 42 years (1965-2007), and was honored in 2002 with a collegiate professorship: the Fred Newton Scott Collegiate Professor of English.
He was a pioneer in the application of computers to research in the humanities, attending early conferences sponsored by IBM and the Rand Corporation (1964 and 1967). He quickly applied what he learned to the “Early Modern English Dictionary” project he was leading at U-M. With A.J. Aitken and Neil Hamilton Smith, of the University of Edinburgh, he edited “The Computer and Literary Studies” (1973) and later he edited “Computing in the Humanities” (1982). He and his colleagues, Marilyn Miller and Colette Moore, collaborated on a digital edition of an Early Modern text, “A London Provisioner’s Chronicle,” 1550-1563, by Henry Machyn (2006).
Bailey’s work in lexicography and automation influenced many other major dictionary projects, including the “Dictionary of American Regional English,” the “Dictionary of Old English” and the “Middle English Dictionary.” He also was well known as a historian of lexicography.
For Bailey, this attention to the history of dictionaries was part of his larger interest in the etymology of English, not only of its structure and use, but also of attitudes toward varieties of the language around the world. With Manfred Görlach, then of the University of Heidelberg, he edited “English as a World Language” (1982) and founded the journal English World-Wide. His articles made major contributions to scholarship on American English, Canadian English, Scots and English in Sri Lanka, Japan, China, among other places.
As an historian of English, Bailey is best known for books such as “Images of English” (1991), “Nineteenth-Century English” (1996) and the forthcoming “Speaking American,” as well as the linguistic true-crime story, “Rogue Scholar: The Sinister Life and Celebrated Death of Edward H. Rulloff” (2003). Bailey was admired for his ability to find out remarkable and hitherto unknown facts, and though he loved a good story and told many of them, his research was driven by empirical linguistic and historical research.
Bailey was especially concerned that people listen to what others, historical or contemporary, have to say about their language and language use. One of the chapters in “Nineteenth-Century English” is titled “Voices.” “Images of English” is remarkable for its inclusion of extensive extracts, so that readers can hear what people had to say about English in their own, unmediated words. Bailey once said, “There’s a great deal to be learned if you just shut up and listen, rather than saying, well, I have these academic credentials and therefore my opinion’s the only one worth having.”
A volume to honor Bailey, titled “Contours of English and English Language Studies,” is forthcoming from the U-M Press and will be available this summer.
Bailey was born Oct. 26, 1939, in Pontiac. He attended Dartmouth College, graduating in 1961. As an undergraduate, he also had the opportunity to study at the University of Edinburgh. He did his graduate work at the University of Connecticut, taking his doctorate in 1965. He returned to Michigan in 1965 to teach at U-M in Ann Arbor. He was particularly loyal to his roots and spent parts of the summer on Drummond Island in Lake Huron.
Bailey was a committed citizen and often put his knowledge of English to use in social and educational settings. He was an expert witness in what is known as the Ann Arbor Black English Case (1979). With Dennis Baron and Jeffrey Kaplan, he recently submitted an amicus brief in the United States Supreme Court case District of Columbia v. Heller. He assiduously mentored graduate students about how to make their work matter inside and outside the academy. In 2001 he received the D’Arms Award for Graduate Mentoring. For 34 years (1974-2008), he was a trustee of Washtenaw Community College, and he served as chair of the Board of Trustees from 1985-94 and 1999-2000; the college library was named in his honor in 2005. He recently received the Genesis Humanitarian Award from St. Clare’s Episcopal Church and Temple Beth Emeth.
Bailey was president of the American Dialect Society from 1987-89, president of the Dictionary Society of North America 2001-03 and editor of the journal Dictionaries from 1978-90. In 2005 he was named a Fellow of the Dictionary Society, its highest honor.
He was president of the Guild of Scholars of the Episcopal Church (2003-07) and a member of the Episcopal Church throughout his life. Bailey also was a member of The Flounders, a group of men who play water polo at noon three times a week at the U-M Intramural Building.
Bailey was the father of Nony, Andrew and Oceana Bailey. He was the husband of Julia Huttar Bailey from 1990 to the present. And he was a dear friend of Claire and Hallie Dykstra.
— Submitted by Anne Curzan and Michael Adams, Department of English Language and Literature
Gerald White, medical assistant, Division of Metabolism, Endocrinology & Diabetes clinic, on mispronouncing a word in Mandarin during patient intake: “Usually you get a chuckle out of them because they know you’ve messed up. But they know you’re trying very hard and they appreciate what you’re trying to do.”
“Pyongyang,” multimedia installation by artist David Chung, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, Institute for the Humanities.