In Fall 2020, the French Linguistics graduate program lost two promising young students who died through natural causes. Joseph Dale O’Connor passed away on October 12, and Melinda Christine Arnold passed away one month later, on November 12. They will both be greatly missed by friends, colleagues, and faculty members.
Melinda started her graduate work in French linguistics in Fall 2018 after completing a BA with a dual major in French and Linguistics from the University of Pittsburgh. In her first year, she received a College of Arts & Sciences Fellowship, and in Fall 2019 she served as an Associate Instructor in our French language program. She was a member of Pi Delta Phi, the National French Honor Society, and she studied abroad in Québec (Trois-Rivières) and Aix-en-Provence. In FRIT, she was a lively, fun presence and made close friends. At the time of her death, she was on a medical leave from her MA program.
Joseph joined the French linguistics program one year after Melinda, but his association with IU was longer. He completed a BA in French At Central Washington University, including study abroad in Grenoble in 2012-13, and then arrived at IU in 2014 to pursue an MA in Second Language Studies, which he finished in two years. He moved back to Bloomington in Fall 2019 to start his studies toward the MA/PhD in French linguistics. He too received a College of Arts & Sciences Fellowship his first year and started teaching as an AI in his second year.
In early October, Joseph submitted and discussed his research statement with the French linguistics faculty, a requirement for students on track for the PhD. He proposed a project entitled “A comparative analysis of nasal vowels in Laurentian French, Acadian French, and Northern Metropolitan French.” Joseph was far enough along in meeting his MA requirements that the MA degree was posthumously conferred in an online ceremony on December 4, 2020. At the ceremony, his friends spoke of his selflessness, warmth, and sense of humor. They recalled how he loved teaching French, and indeed his undergraduate students felt the loss dearly, as did his colleagues and professors in the Department.
Our hearts go out to the families and friends of Melinda and Joseph, and especially to their fellow students in French linguistics, who have had to bear these losses in a semester already made difficult by the global pandemic.