We in the Department of French and Italian were saddened to learn of the passing of Associate Professor Emerita Mona Tobin Houston, in Chelmsford, Massachusetts, on January 15. She was a faculty member in French from 1962 until her retirement in 1999, specializing in 17th-century theater, which she taught “always regarding the printed text only as a design, however brilliant and rich, for the total dramatic phenomenon” (according to the late Professor Samuel Rosenberg).
Professor Houston was born and raised in New York City and graduated from Barnard College with a BA in French and Italian. She went on to earn a PhD from Yale, where she met her future husband John Porter Houston. After marrying in Paris, they both came to our department at IU-Bloomington. Mona’s wide range of scholarly interests and expertise showed in her collaborations with her husband. Together, they published a teaching version of François Mauriac’s novel Génitrix (1966) and the anthology French Symbolist Poetry (1980).
In addition to her specialization in French literature, Houston was also co-author of the seminal reference work Harper’s Grammar of French (1983) and was active in translating French and Italian plays into English, and at least one American play into French. In Bloomington, she was active in the Town Theater as director, actor, and producer, and she translated and produced two French plays for the John Waldron Arts Center. For many years, Houston coached up-and-coming opera singers at IUB in correct French pronunciation, an invaluable service.
Professor Houston made a lasting impact on her students and her community, both at IU and in Bloomington, where she lived even after retirement. She will be dearly missed.