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October 13, 2016

Obituary: Herschel J. Frey

obit.freyHerschel J. Frey, emeritus professor of Spanish linguistics, died of myelodysplastic syndrome at his home in Encinitas, California, on Sept. 12, 2016. He was 80.

Frey graduated from Baylor University then did graduate work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Texas-Austin before completing his PhD in Romance languages and literatures, with a specialization in Spanish, at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1963. His dissertation, an analysis of a masterpiece of medieval Spanish literature, “El libro de buen amor,” took a phonological rather than the customary literary approach and indicated the direction his research and teaching would take: Spanish linguistics with increasing emphasis on applied linguistics.

He taught at the University of Washington, UCLA, SUNY-Fredonia and as a Fulbright lecturer at the University of Buenos Aires before joining the Pitt faculty in 1971.

He spent the remainder of his academic career here, teaching a variety of upper-level language and linguistics classes, as well as methodology classes for future Spanish teachers.

But it was his work with graduate student that gave him the most satisfaction, said colleague John Beverley, Distinguished Professor of Hispanic Languages and Literatures. Frey directed the master’s theses and PhD dissertations of some 20 students, more than a dozen of whom now are in charge of university or college language programs.

Beverley said: “The outstanding quality of Herschel Frey was his loyalty to his students.”

Away from the University, Beverley said Frey bred exotic tropical birds including Gouldian finches, native to northern Australia and New Guinea. He installed special lights and built cages for them in the basement of his Mt. Lebanon home. Beverley said Frey even created a new color variety of the Gouldian finch — one with a white breast.

Frey also studied and achieved a high degree of oral and reading proficiency in Czech, a language he began learning as a child from his grandmother.

Frey and his wife retired to Encinitas 17 years ago, where he pursued his interests in gardening, bridge and cooking.

Beverley said Frey will be remembered as a wonderful, caring and generous friend: Even when he was ill, he always supported friends who had problems and celebrated the successes of his former students.

He is survived by his wife of 51 years, Harriet Frey; his sister, Marilyn McCarty; nieces Gay Young and Michele Forman; and nephew Art Newlin.

Filed under: Feature,Volume 49 Issue 4

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