College Saddened by Loss of French Professor

The College of Arts & Letters is mourning the loss of Anna Norris, Associate Professor of French, who died on Saturday, March 18. She was 58 years old.          

For more than 18 years, Norris had been a member of the faculty at Michigan State University, and from 2008 to 2010, she served as Acting Chair of MSU’s Department of French, Classics, and Italian (now the Department of Romance and Classical Studies).

“We are saddened by the loss of Dr. Anna Norris, a dedicated professor who touched the lives of many students and colleagues,” said Christopher P. Long, Dean of the College of Arts & Letters. “It was a privilege to know her, and we will miss her very much. On behalf of the College, I wish to express our condolences to her family and friends.” 

In her life, her teaching, and research, Anna profoundly affected others and made their lives better and richer.

Doug Noverr

Norris had a wide range of research interests including 19th, 20th, and contemporary French literature, culture, and cinema; Holocaust studies; and trauma writings. She also taught a wide range of courses in those fields, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels. For nearly 16 years, she had served as the Resident Director of MSU’s summer study abroad program to Tours, France.

This semester, Norris was teaching Introduction to French Studies II: Francophone Cultures (FRN 416), Studies in 20th Century French Literature (FRN 835), and an independent study.  Also during the 2016-2017 academic year she was filling the role of Graduate Advisor for the French program and was a member of the department AC committee. She served in the fall 2016 as Chair of the dissertation committee for a doctoral student who defended in fall 2016.

“In her life, her teaching, and research, Anna profoundly affected others and made their lives better and richer. She brought great intelligence, preparation, and professional dedication to the classroom or seminar room, deepened and enriched by a human voice and personality of profound respect for her students,” said Doug Noverr, Chair of the Department of Romance and Classical Studies. “Anna connected with students in ways that endeared her to them, made them realize how much she cared for their intellectual and social growth and how committed she was to that growth, and left them with the impression and reality of a truly special professor and exceptional human being. She will be missed, as she already is.”

We lost a colleague and friend who has given so generously to our French program and brought so much to our department, college, university and the community.

Safoi Babana-Hampton

Her publications include Des femmes écrivent la guerre; L’écriture du défi: les textes carcéraux féminins du 19e et du 20e siècles. Entre l’aiguille et la plume; and peer edited essays and book chapters on prison writings, French literature, French and Francophone cinema, women's and gender studies, Holocaust studies, and Jewish studies.

Norris was named Chevalier dans L’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (Knight in the Order of Academic Palms) by the French Ministry for Higher Education and Research for her efforts in promoting the French language and culture in the United States. The Ordre des Palmes Académiques is an association in France for academic, cultural, and educational figures, founded originally as a decoration by Napoléon Bonaparte to recognize devotion and accomplishment in the realm of teaching, scholarship, and research.

Norris also had been nominated for the Faculty of the Year Award by the National Society of Collegiate Scholars.

She began working at Michigan State University in January 1999. Prior to coming to MSU, she taught at the University of Virginia and Mary Baldwin College.

Norris was born in Tunis and grew up in France. She received her Ph.D. in French Literature from the University of Virginia and her M.A. in French Language and Literature from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

"We lost a colleague and friend who has given so generously to our French program and brought so much to our department, college, university and the community,” said Safoi Babana-Hampton, Associate Professor of French. “She spent the last few days of her life busy doing one of the things she was always most passionate about as well as selflessly and tirelessly dedicated herself to during her long and rich career: being an accomplished scholar and inspirational educator who profoundly impacted her students' educational and life journeys. Her beautiful legacy will be around for a very long time.”

The funeral service for Norris will be on Thursday, March 23, at 11 a.m. at the Congregation Shaarey Zedek, 1924 Coolidge Road, East Lansing, Michigan. Funeral arrangements are being made by Estes-Leadley Funeral Home, which has posted a guestbook page for Norris. To sign the guestbook, visit the Estes-Leadley Funeral Home website. In addition, the Department of Romance and Classical Studies will be holding a Memorial in honor of professor Anna Norris on Wednesday, March 22 at 5:00 p.m. in B342 Wells. All community members are welcome to attend.