I first met Rose Deal in the 1970′s and, as she said, we seemed to have a kind of natural affinity, partly because we were both from ‘somewhere else,’ partly because we shared something of European culture. All the years since, she brought to the School of Arts a dimension that is her true legacy to us. Certainly, we will all benefit from her monetary gifts, but it would be an unhappy result were we to forget her other greater legacy—an intellectual and cultural one.
She was deeply steeped in the ancient and medieval culture of Europe, and this gave her a wonderful breadth of mind and a love of the past. Indeed she knew the ancient foundations of Western culture through her command of Greek and Latin literature, and with this she combined a love of the later Catholic culture of medieval and Renaissance Europe, especially in her love for Dante.
As a teacher, her greatest concern was to assure that her students in Memphis were brought into a happy collision with what she had to give. As a Professor of Latin, ancient Greek, Italian, French and Western European history, she opened up the minds of generations of students to a richer vision of culture. But this did not take place only in the classroom; her very way of acting and living, her very manner—gracious, smiling and more than slightly aristocratic—conveyed a mysteriously deep fineness of character. Many a student has remarked on her ‘presence,’ drawn by a personality shaped in another, longer tradition.
Yet she was capable of decisive and direct action when she felt that the university might be veering away from the teaching of languages and tempted to cut some of them away. She protested vigorously, and sometimes prompted a return to what she called ‘linguistic sanity’ by an instrument she found effective in many cases—money.