Former philosophy professor, vice president of academic affairs dies at 93

Roderick “Rod” French, the former vice president of academic affairs and philosophy professor, died last month after 28 years at GW. He was 93. 

French came to the University as a Ph.D. student in 1968, receiving his doctorate in American civilization, according to a University release. Shortly after, officials appointed him as the associate director of GW’s division of experimental programs in 1969 and then he became director of the division by 1979. 

In 1984, French was named vice president of academic affairs, a position he held for the next 11 years until stepping down in 1997 to serve as the first chancellor of the American University of Sharjah in the United Emirates, where he worked until 2002. The release states that he then served as professor emeritus and a member of the American University of Sharjah’s board of trustees. 

After stepping down from his position in the administration, French worked with the University Honors Program and was a faculty advisor for a GW undergraduate research journal.

“Rod French lived and worked as a true GW scholar, driven by the purpose of making the world a better place through scholarship and service,” Provost Chris Bracey said in the release. “He had a profound impact on GW and beyond, and we are extremely grateful for the nearly 30 years he devoted to this university.”

In addition to his service within the GW community, French was involved with organizations like the D.C. Council of Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities, the release states. 

In 2011 and 2014, French donated collections of his personal papers dating from 1969 to 2013 to GW, including notes, press releases, speeches, correspondence and publications regarding French’s work for GW and other organizations. 

Early in his career, French also served as the executive director of the World Council of Churches in Geneva youth department and later as the special assistant to the director of the office of public affairs of the Peace Corps.

French is survived by his wife Sally and his two children, Eric and Sarah. 

There will be a memorial service on Sunday, Aug. 14 at 2 p.m. at Maplewood Park Place in Bethesda, Maryland. The service will also be accessible online.

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