Professor Emeritus of French Marc Bertrand died on April 28 on account of heart complications. He was 83.
Raised in Metz, France, Bertrand served in the French army from 1953 to 1955 and then joined Stanford’s French department in 1966 after studying Romance languages at the University of California at Berkeley.
Bertrand published L’Oeuvre de Jean Prévost, a biography of French author Jean Prévost, in 1968. He published two works on the history of France’s popular traditions and culture in 1985 and 1987, respectively. Bertrand additionally penned essays on physiologist Claude Bernard and on writers Voltaire, Gustave Flaubert and Jean Cayrol.
At Stanford, Bertrand also taught Italian and sat on the Academic Council. Speaking to Stanford News, Bertrand’s wife, Vida, emphasized Bertrand’s enthusiasm for his students, citing the fact that many of his former pupils continued to contact him years into his retirement.
Upon his retirement in 2000, Bertrand remained an active educator on campus, teaching classes to undergraduates as well as adult Continuing Studies students. Bertrand also continued to visit Green Library on an almost-daily basis to research French literature and art.
Vida said his ardor for education and research did not wane with retirement, even as he grew less healthy.
“He didn’t have enough strength but would still want to get up and go,” she said. “I had to hide his car keys a few times.”
Bertrand’s daughter, Ariane, cited her father’s intense passion for education and French culture. With his wife and daughter alongside him, Bertrand would often lead students on trips abroad through Stanford’s Bing Overseas Studies program in Paris.
“He instilled in me the importance of the love of learning and the joy of being fascinated by things and sharing them with people,” Ariane said.
Beyond his academic world, Bertrand was fond of gardening, French films and classical music. An adoring grandfather by Ariane’s account, he often drove his grandson, Luc, to soccer practices, and his granddaughter, Sophie, to horseback riding. According to Ariane, Bertrand once made a slideshow for Sophie and Luc in an effort to share French culture with the youngest members of his family.
Ralph Hester, also professor emeritus of French, knew Bertrand since the 1960s and praised his intellect and character to Stanford News.
“Besides his great culture, his intellectual curiosity, his Gallic charm, Marc was quintessentially a French homme de gauche, generous and trustworthy,” he said. “He was a superb colleague, a confrère and a faithful friend.”