Bastille Day — July 14 — is a day to join the Department of Romance Studies in celebrating the good news of a Chair in French and Francophone Studies. The donor of this generous gift has named the Chair after one of her professors from the late eighties. Studying with Anne-Marie Bryan in French, she said, put her on a path that changed the course of her life. Who was this colleague?
Anne-Marie Després Bryan, born in Burgundy, took her law degrees at the University of Dijon and the University of Paris (1941,1944), during the Vichy years, under the German Occupation of France. A war bride, she came to the States in 1947 with her husband, Charles J. Bryan, an American military officer from Georgia. With an MA from Duke (1956), Prof. Bryan began a thirty-years-long professional life at the University. She was known as a professor who insisted that her students speak and write French impeccably, and was beloved for it.
During the years of the civil rights movement in Durham, and on campus, the move to internationalize student life was under way. Prof. Bryan played a leading role in the experiment, launching the first ‘French’ corridor where students worked, ate, partied and slept in another language. Her rakish sense of humor and political wit made her something of a magnetic force on campus. Bryan was a pioneer in her teaching, introducing law and business courses, as well as the first on feminist writing. In the vanguard of women professors, she was committed to mentoring the next generation of colleagues. Anne-Marie Bryan personifies the key part French studies played when Duke – a southern regional college – emerged on the national scene. She was still breaking new ground when Francophone studies helped to make Duke internationally known.