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howard evans

Howard Evans, BA, D de l’Univ

Colleagues will be very sorry to learn of the death, on 18th March 2012, of Dr Howard Evans, former Senior Lecturer in the Department of French.  The following tribute to Howard has been written by Dr Jim Dryhurst:

"Howard Evans was born in South Wales, won a scholarship to the local grammar school and went on to read French at Bristol, where the traditional link with Bordeaux led him to a post as lecteur at the University there and to meeting his future wife, Michelle.  I first met him in 1957 in Paris at the Collège Franco-Britannique, where we had adjacent rooms. We were both doctoral students and had both recently finished our National Service - Howard had been a sergeant in the Royal Army Education Corps, and had taught young illiterate recruits to read and write. At the end of 1958 I joined the French Department at Leeds, whilst Howard, having graduated Docteur de l’Université de Bordeaux (mention très bien) stayed in France as an international civil servant with NATO in Paris until 1966, when, to my great joy, he was appointed to a vacancy at Leeds. By pure chance we once again had adjacent rooms.

Howard’s literary teaching at Leeds was based upon 19th-century fiction. He also brought the benefits of his profound knowledge and experience of the French language in many contexts and of the country and of the way in which it worked. Howard was able to expand existing courses on French history and institutions and to publish an invaluable little book called L’Administration locale en France. We would say‘local government’ but, as Howard pointed out, for the French there is only one Government and its decrees are merely put into effect locally. The then recently established degree in French and Management Studies owed much to Howard, and in particular the course in Bilingual Conference Précis Writing, an invaluable exercise for future international managers.  Howard also played a key part in adding a new element to the Department, combining the best of the traditional Language and Literature tradition with the best of the ‘practical language’ courses that were gaining currency elsewhere. The aim was to enable our graduates to find common ground with their opposite numbers in France, who were likely to be well versed in French culture, as well as gaining the necessary advanced linguistic skills.

Howard really came into his own with the Department’s Civil Servants’ Courses, established in 1973 when Britain was in the process of entering the Common Market, and designed to educate senior civil servants in French language, culture and practices.  For the next twenty years, during the Christmas and Easter vacations, we took over Fairbairn House for a fortnight and put the course members through a demanding programme tailored to their diverse professional interests, from maritime law to aerodynamics.  The use of French was de rigueur during waking hours, and some even reported dreaming in French. Howard’s detailed planning and specialist teaching skills were fundamental to the project’s longstanding success, and the standard and value of the courses gained official recognition when they won a National Training Award for the Department. The courses also informed the Department’s undergraduate teaching to great effect, and inspired a book which Howard wrote with Philip Thody, Faux amis and Key Words, an invaluable guide to official France. From 1989 to 1994 Howard was seconded half time to the Foreign Language Teaching Unit as Director, setting up courses and formulating elective modules. His interest in translation and interpreting and in contemporary French institutions proved invaluable there.

Howard was well liked by all he had contact with in the University during his long and distinguished career, and by those he maintained contact with outside – within the Civil Service, in France and as an external examiner. He was an excellent and caring tutor, an active member of the Modern Language Association, giving lectures at many of its Days for Sixth Formers, and a regular participant in the Department’s weekend residential courses for Sixth-Form Teachers. He was also elected to membership of the University Senate and served on a range of faculty and university committees. Collegues will remember his quiet efficiency, generosity with his time, and his consideration for everybody’s needs and preferences over his own.

In the spare time which he had, Howard was a keen supporter of Opera North, where Michelle was a language coach, an interest to which he was able to devote more attention following his early retirement from the department in 1997. His being made Chevalier dans l’ordre des palmes académiques was the reward for a lifetime of devotion to Franco-British friendship."

He is survived by his wife Michelle, and children Catherine, Phillipe and Bernadette, and six grandchildren.

The funeral service was held on Friday 30 March 2012, when, out of a mark of respect for Dr Evans, the flag on the Parkinson Building was at half-mast.