University Mourns Death of Jeffrey Chamberlain

Posted: September 4, 2009 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: September 8, 2009 at 11:08 am

By Catherine Ferraro

Jeffrey Chamberlain during his last Commencement as university marshal in 2008. Creative Services photo

Jeffrey Chamberlain during his last Commencement as university marshal in 2008. Creative Services photo

Jeffrey T. Chamberlain, associate professor of French in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages (MCL), died on Tuesday, Sept. 1, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 59 years old.

Chamberlain joined the university as assistant professor in MCL in 1983, teaching courses in French linguistics and Latin. He was promoted to associate professor in 1988, and went on to serve four years as associate chair and eight years as chair until 2008.

According to his colleague, Paula Gilbert, professor of French, Chamberlain loved making other people feel good about themselves and was an expert at bringing out their strengths. Fluent in several languages, Chamberlain “lived to teach.”  His clever and renowned sense of humor was a pleasure in all languages, she says.

“Jeff was a quintessential philologist with a strong command of many languages,” says Julie Christensen, MCL chair and associate professor of Russian. “His ability to manipulate language was truly amazing and inspiring.”

In 2000, Chamberlain was appointed university marshal by President Alan Merten, and he presided over Commencement until 2008. According to his colleagues, this position embodied for Chamberlain the spirit of Mason, the students, the academy and the values he held in highest esteem.

“Jeff will always be remembered by his colleagues, friends and students as a smart, kind and gentle person who considered it an honor to be a part of Mason,” says Gilbert.

Originally from Connecticut, Chamberlain received a BA in French from Capital University in Ohio, an MA in French language and literature from the University of Rhode Island, and a PhD from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, in French linguistics. Before coming to Mason, he taught at the Lycée Champollion in Grenoble, France, and at the University of Louisville as assistant professor of French and linguistics.

Chamberlain’s works include “Latin Antecedents of French Causative ‘faire,’” “French Verb Workbook” and “The Académie Française and the French Language: Friends or Foes?”

His colleagues recall that Chamberlain was a car enthusiast, with a soft spot for Peugeot, BMW (10 years or older and black in color) and the occasional Ford pickup. He loved to sing. He also took great pride in serving as chief of his district polling station in Vienna, Va., for the past several elections.

Chamberlain was set to retire from Mason next year and permanently live with his wife, Mary, in Newport, R.I., where they had long planned to retire and open a gift shop.

The funeral Mass will take place on Saturday, Sept. 12, at 2 p.m. at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, 8601 Wolftrap Rd.,Vienna, VA 22182. [The easiest way to get to the church is to turn onto Niblick Road off of Route 123. Niblick Road ends at the church parking lot.] A reception will follow the Mass. No eulogies will be given at the Mass, but there will be an opportunity to make brief remarks at the reception.

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