Saturday, May 30, 2020

Obituary: Professor Herbert Josephs

<p>Photo courtesy of Michael Josephs.</p>

Photo courtesy of Michael Josephs.

Editor's note: we are publishing this obituary on behalf of Dr. Josephs' son, Michael Josephs. The obituary has been edited for AP Style.

Herbert Josephs, age 86, of East Lansing, died peacefully July 27, 2019 at his home at the Bickford Assisted Living Community in Okemos, MI. He is survived by his son Michael, who lives in Mission Viejo, CA with his wife Toni and their son Mathew, who is presently attending Southern Methodist University in Dallas, TX.

Herbert was the youngest of two children born to Morris and Elsie Josephs of Brooklyn, NY. He stayed in Brooklyn through the completion of his undergraduate degree at Brooklyn College, and the completion of his Master’s Degree at Fordham University. Herbert earned his Doctorate from Princeton University, and after two years as an associate professor on the staff at Amherst University, he commenced a 40-year career as professor of 18th century French literature in the Romance Language Department at Michigan State University.

Herbert’s professional path also included becoming the first non-musically trained professor to be invited to join the Michigan State School of Music, in order to leverage his deep teaching skills to help spread the Joy of Opera (on which he lectured, from Bregenz, Austria to Salt Lake City, dozens of times at MSU and in the local community), making opera accessible, and opening its doors to hundreds of new fans.

In 1958, while sailing to France on a Fulbright Scholarship during graduate school, Herbert met Mary Jim Russell, with whom he remained married for 59 years, until her passing in August of 2016. Mary Jim Josephs reached full professorship at Michigan State, in Justin Morrill College, subsequently becoming the Director of the College of Lifelong Education at MSU, and Assistant Provost for Community Outreach. 

As their professional careers began to wind down and their collective love of France grew from the first moments they shared there, Herbert and Mary Jim purchased an apartment in Paris, and grew a network of deep friendships to rival the vast friendships developed over the years in East Lansing. 

In the case of Herbert Josephs, the curriculum vitae of a tenured faculty member doesn’t adequately capture the richness of his cultural comprehension and apperception, nor the depth of his intellectual aptitude nor the linguistic mastery he was widely known for. Herbert found beauty in many things and was able to share his perception of that beauty in a rare, effective and endearing manner. He has left a lasting impression on all who have known him. 

As per Herbert’s wishes, there will be no memorial service. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations honoring Herbert be sent to the Herbert and Mary Jim Scholarship in Voice at the Michigan State University School of Music.

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