Professor John R. Rassias

John Rassias, the William R. Kenan Professor of French and Italian, Emeritus, passed away on December 2, 2015. His name will be tied forever with the Rassias Method also called the Dartmouth Intensive Language Model, his unique style of instruction that aims to make the student quickly comfortable and natural in a new language. Key to the method is a dramatic teaching style whose goal is to eliminate inhibitions and encourage dialogue from the first day of class. This method is wildly successful and was adopted for the Peace Corp.

John grew up in Manchester, NH as the son of Greek immigrants, and studied French at the University of Bridgeport, graduating summa cum laude in 1950. Upon graduation, he won a Fulbright to the Université de Dijon where he stayed to complete his Ph.D. work. John's next big move was to Paris where he studied French drama at the Sorbonne and acted in the theater. This theatrical period served him well when he developed his teaching method.

In 1964, John began his long affiliation with the Peace Corps language programs as consultant and developer. Two years later, he became the director of the first pilot program of languages for the Peace Corps in Africa, leading in-country training in the Ivory Coast.

John joined the Dartmouth faculty in 1965, and served innumerable students and colleagues for close to 50 years. The Language Study Abroad programs here at Dartmouth owe a large debt to John Rassias, as he was one of their founders. In addition, he was the director of Dartmouth's Foreign Study programs for several years. His commitment to transnational communication and cultural understanding was the cornerstone of his life.

Dartmouth was not the only recipient of John's enthusiasm for language. During his career, he shared the Rassias Method with the People's Republic of China, Bulgaria, France, Japan, Greece, Turkey, the City of Baltimore School System, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Program, and the New York City Transit Police, among others. His indefatigable enthusiasm carried him around the globe and resulted in several honors. The French Government awarded him the Palmes Académiques in 1978; he was given the Italo Ponterotto Memorial Award in 1989 for contributions to the development of foreign language pedagogy; Dartmouth conferred the Robert A. Fish Award on him in 1997; and in 1998, John won the New Hampshire Professor of the Year from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. National recognition came in 1978 when he was the only language instructor appointed to President Carter's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies, where he also chaired the special writing team who drafted the final report. Even as he aged, John did not slow down. He founded the Rassias Center for World Languages and Cultures and, with the Center, became one of the founding partners for the Inter-American Partnership for Education, a Clinton Global Initiative.

John Rassias was a force of nature whose enthusiasm for bridging cultural divides was dazzling. He walked through life with a spring in his step, perpetual optimism and an enormous curiosity about everything. Not all of us could smash an egg on our student's head or throw paper balls around the room and be adored by our students—but John could and did. He made language learning lively, emotional, manic…and fun. John Rassias was a master teacher, and we were lucky to have him here at Dartmouth.