Wabash Mourns Passing of Tom Stokes

July 17, 2015

Wabash College is mourning the passing of Associate Professor of French Thomas H. Stokes, Jr., who died suddenly on July 7, 2015 in Québec, Canada, while attending an academic conference.

A memorial service will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, August 11 in the Pioneer Chapel at Wabash College. 

"Tom was deeply committed, not just to French literature and culture, but to the life of the mind in its broadest sense," said Professor of Spanish and Humanities Chair Dan Rogers. "Most of all, Tom was committed to his students. He mentored and encouraged some of our best and brightest over the years.

"Many have written me emails over the past few days to send their heartfelt condolences and share memories. Our students will miss his dry wit and love of art and culture in all its forms."

"Language is a thing of beauty in itself," Stokes wrote in his 1997 LaFollette Lecture in the Humanities. "Language captures the personal and then frees it as vicarious experience."

Stokes was born in Greenville County, South Carolina on March 30, 1948, and was the son of Thomas H. and Alice (White) Stokes, who predeceased him. He graduated from Davidson College in 1970, and in 1971 studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, where he earned a diploma in French Studies. His further advanced degrees were an M.A. from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974, and the Ph.D. from the University of Arizona, both in French.

Stokes began his career as a Peace Corps teacher in the Congo for two years and taught English as a second language in the United States, France, and Germany. He also taught at Cumberland College, St John’s College (NM), and Cornell College before joining the faculty of Wabash in 1990.

His most important academic work was his 1996 book Audience, Intention, and Rhetoric in Pascal and Simone Weil. Later in his career he developed an interest in the Francophone literature of Africa and the Caribbean and gave numerous papers and lectures on this and other topics in French Studies. His abiding interest was literature; he was long fascinated by the French moraliste tradition, and by biography and autobiography, and with them, the construction of memory. Tom Stokes believed in the study of literature as a vital means of unlocking the human mind, heart, and soul. 

Wabash College honored him with the McLain-McTurnan-Arnold Research Award in 1996, and his 1997 LaFollette Lecture, "Analects of the Heart's Residuum," explored how four French classicists used language to explore the natural tensions between mind and heart to distill life to its essence.

He is survived by his aunt, Mildred Stokes, and several cousins, and many devoted friends, colleagues, and students throughout the world who will miss his unfailing dedication to humanistic studies, as well as his ironic wit.

A memorial service will be held August 11 at 7:00 p.m. in the Pioneer Chapel at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, with a reception following in the Detchon Center.

Tom was an inveterate traveler around the globe, and recognizing this love and the way he inspired it in his students, his close friends and former students will establish at Wabash the Thomas H. Stokes, Jr. Fund for Study Abroad. They invite contributions to this fund in Tom’s memory. Gifts can be directed to Wabash College in care of the Advancement Office, PO Box 352, Crawfordsville, IN 47933. Contributions may also be made online at www.wabash.edu/egift or by calling 877-743-4545.


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