- In Memory of Gabriel Asfar, Professor Emeritus of French and Arabic
The Simon’s Rock community mourns the passing of Gabriel V. Asfar, Professor Emeritus
of French and Arabic, who died unexpectedly on August 11, 2020.
A beloved pillar of the Simon’s Rock community, Gabriel was a professor of French
and Arabic and a Residence Director who taught generations of Rockers between 1983
– 2014. Gabriel was honored with the Glover Teaching Award by the 2001 – 2002 Senior
class, and in 2013 he received Simon’s Rock’s Drumm Award in recognition of lifetime
dedication to the values and philosophy of the College.
Among Gabriel’s many professional accomplishments was his part in the founding of
the Simon’s Rock Foreign Language Institute in 1984, an intensive summer program of
college-level study in seven languages; he served as its director until 1996. In honor
of Gabriel’s service to the College and to cultural diversity, Simon’s Rock in 2012
established the Gabriel Asfar Scholarship to be awarded to an international student or one raised in a culturally and linguistically
Gabriel moved to the U.S. from Iraq in 1962 to attend Hamilton College and went on
to receive an MA and a PhD from Princeton University. Before joining Simon's Rock
in 1983, he taught French at Princeton University and Middlebury College.
Both Gabriel and his wife, Denise, were ardent supporters of education and international
relations and sat on the board of the newly created World Progress Organization. Gabriel’s
family is in the process of establishing the Gabriel Asfar Foundation, a charitable
organization dedicated to the ongoing advancement of these efforts. The Foundation
will support the World Progress Organization, the Gabriel Asfar Scholarship Fund at Simon’s Rock, and others related to enhancing education and international relations.
The family is in the process of planning a memorial service to take place in 2021
when COVID-19 restrictions become lifted.
Gabriel Asfar’s Professional Highlights
BA, Hamilton College, Phi Beta Kappa
MA, PhD, Princeton University
Professor of French and Arabic, Bard College at Simon's Rock (1983-2014)
Assistant Professor of French, Middlebury College (1980-1983)
Assistant Professor in Romance Languages, Princeton University (1970-1977)
- Consultant to the Educational Testing Service in the development of a test of French-language
proficiency, the TFI (Test de Français International).
- Served as linguistic and cultural consultant and translator to filmmaker Karin Muller
in the production of her PBS documentary on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan’s Secret
- Instrumental in founding the Simon’s Rock Foreign Language Institute in 1984, an intensive
summer program of college-level study in seven languages, and served as FLI director
- Throughout his tenure as a member of the College faculty, Dr. Asfar also served as
a member of the Student Life staff, as Residence Director.
- In May 2013, the senior class selected Dr. Asfar as the recipient of the Drumm Award,
“in recognition of lifetime dedication to the values and philosophy of the College.”
- In January 2012, the College established the annual Gabriel V. Asfar Scholarship to
honor his long service to the College.
- Dr. Asfar was selected by the senior class as the 2001-2002 recipient of the Glover
- In October 2011, he served as editorial translator for an article by Abdelmajid Hannoum,
“Are Algeria and Morocco Exceptions to the Arab Revolution?” published in the November
17 issue of The Maghreb Center Blog.
- In May 2011, Dr. Asfar’s chapter, “Arabic at Simon’s Rock: Spanning Two Wars and Counting,”
was published in Educating Outside the Lines (Peter Lang, 2011).
- Dr. Asfar’s poem, “Mulberry Trees in Baghdad,” was published in The Corner Report on February 26, 2011.
- In February 2011, Dr. Asfar served as editorial translator for the English version
of “Révolutions signées arabes,” by Abdelmajid Hannoum, published as “The Revolutions
in Tunisia and Egypt” in the journal Theory, Culture, and Society.
- In 2007, Dr. Asfar served as Arabic consultant and translator for filmmaker Errol
Morris on a documentary concerning the Iraqi prison of Abu-Ghraib, Standard Operating Procedure, released, along with a companion volume of the same title (Penguin-Macmillan), in
- He is the translator, with Denise Asfar, of Maya Roy’s Musiques cubaines (Paris: Actes Sud, 1998; Princeton, NJ: Wiener Publishing, 2002).
- Dr. Asfar served as Arabic consultant and translator for Children in War, an Emmy Award-winning documentary by Susan and Alan Raymond, broadcast on HBO in
January 2000 and published under the same title by TV Books in 2001.
- He is also coauthor of the Performance Assessment components of the Level I and Level
II French language series, Bienvenue and A Bord (McGraw-Hill/Glencoe, 1998).
- He was a contributing writer for the proficiency-based French Test Series, Level I textbook and teacher’s guide, Nouveaux Copains (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1988); and coauthor of the Level II and Level III textbooks
and teacher’s guides, Nous, les jeunes (Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1990), and Notre Monde (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1991).
Dr. Asfar's publications on French and Francophone literature include articles in
French Review, Oeuvres et Critiques, and Panache, as well as chapters in Images of Arab Women (Three Continents Press, 1979), Critical Bibliography of French Literature (Syracuse University Press, 1980), Literature of Africa and the African Continuum (Three Continents Press, 1984), and Faces of Islam in Sub-Saharan Literature (Heinemann, 1991).