Posted February 9, 2000
Suzanne Fleischman, an internationally recognized professor of French and romance philology, has died after a long illness that spurred her to study and lecture extensively about the language of illness in Western medicine.
Fleischman, 51, died Wed., Feb. 2, at Alta Bates Medical Center in Berkeley. She had taught at Berkeley since 1975, developing a reputation that drew graduate students from around the world eager for the opportunity to work with her.
David Hult, chairman of the French Department, said the Chicago native earned worldwide renown as a foremost linguist in French and Romance languages. She also was well known for work focusing on the medieval period and the history of French and other romance languages.
Colleagues and friends recalled Fleischman as an athletic, joyful, witty friend and a dedicated professor. She had in the past several years devoted her energies to studying, understanding and clarifying the relationships between language and disease, after being diagnosed in 1993 with myelodysplastic syndrome, a blood disorder known as MDS. She recently learned she had developed leukemia.
"Her innate curiosity and intellectual drive led her to become an expert on medical literature devoted to the disease (MDS), and more importantly, on the language of illness that prevails in the medical community and its impact on the patient," Hult said.
During her career, Fleischman earned numerous honors. They included Fulbright, Guggenheim, American Council of Learned Societies and French government fellowships, as well as a 1995 medal of honor for research from the University of Helsinki. She was invited to deliver the Zaharoff lectures in French studies at Oxford University last year.
Fleischman earned her Ph.D. in romance philology, which is the history of the Romance languages, at Berkeley in 1975. She had received her master's degree in Spanish from Berkeley in 1971 and a bachelor's degree in Spanish from the University of Michigan in 1969.
She is survived by her father, Edward Fleischman of San Diego. Graveside services were held at a Richmond cemetery Friday. Memorial plans are pending.