In Memoriam: Nancy F. Marino
I was deeply saddened in early 2018 to learn that my former colleague, Nancy Frances Marino, was too exhausted to continue teaching her Spanish classes at Michigan State University. She had been diagnosed with cancer in May of 2017 but kept it secret from friends and colleagues and, with the unfailing support of her husband, Frank McBath, underwent treatment. Lamentably, Nancy passed away on March 10, 2018. On June 17, she would have been sixty-seven years old, but looked and felt much younger and, until her cancer diagnosis, was one of the most active and resourceful people I ever had the privilege of knowing. She was a weekly presence at her gymnasium, watched her diet and maintained healthy habits (she did not smoke), avoiding all excesses as a matter of course. [End Page 5]
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Nancy was born in New York in 1951, obtained a B.A. from State University of New York-New Paltz, and went directly for her doctorate at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her forty-four-year academic career began as a visiting professor at Indiana University (1974–1976). She was tenured at the University of Houston and rose to Associate Professor and served three years chairing her department. She moved to MSU in 1993, becoming a Full Professor in 1995. Having been Chair of the Department at Houston, her administrative skills soon became evident at Michigan State. Her peers in the Department of Romance and Classical Studies chose her three times to be its Acting Chair and twice she served the Chair as his associate chair. She also rose to hold a University-wide post as a Consultant to the Vice-President for Research and Graduate Studies, developing brand new programs in the Humanities for paid leaves.
Nancy spent many of her summers directing the MSU Study Abroad programs in Spain (Denia, Cáceres and Valencia). Her academic and teaching successes led to her being named Distinguished Professor in 2012, and being selected to [End Page 6] receive the Paul Varg award for excellence in teaching (awarded, sadly, post-humously). Her solid reputation as a scholar led to her being invited to deliver public lectures in universities in the USA and in Europe, to name but a few, those in London, Oxford, Cambridge, Lyon, Barcelona, Salamanca, Colorado and Virginia.
Nancy was a resourceful organizer as well. In 1988, I founded a group called IMANA (Ibero-Medieval Association of North America) dedicated to organizing sessions at the annual international congress of medievalists held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. As a colleague, she helped in its early years by organizing transport to the annual IMANA banquet at BRAVO, identifying those who had cars and those who needed rides. Our first banquet had 15 attendees and when I retired in 2006, BRAVO could no longer accommodate us as their limit was 75 and our banquet attracted more than that. The 2006 banquet, attended by Alan Deyermond and Samuel Armistead as special guests, was the first held on the campus of WMU, had no less than 110 attendees, and Nancy was especially important in making it feel more intimate.
In time, many hispanomedievalists would come to prefer the informal atmosphere of the Kalamazoo congress to the MLA. Indeed, Nancy took over all the IMANA organizing dating from 2005, when I was in a phased retirement program and living in Madrid, and she did a splendid job through 2017 in her annual “performance” as Master of Ceremonies at the banquet on the WMU campus via a catering service. She would go from table to table, eliciting from a spokesperson the accomplishments (promotions, tenure, new books, awards, etc.) of those at each table, always to general and enthusiastic applause from the others.
In my annual post-retirement visits to Kalamazoo, Nancy Marino was the hostess par excellence and beloved of all hispanomedievalists attending. In the sessions she carefully organized—in one year there were seven—she was ever open to the new specialties (border studies, feminism, cultural studies and more) being added to more standard medieval topics. In the most recent congress in May of 2018, a round table was sponsored by IMANA to honor Nancy’s work. Her husband-widower attended the banquet to announce the future [End Page 7] yearly prize of $1,000 he was establishing to be awarded to the outstanding paper by a graduate student or junior scholar in the field. Nancy would approve wholeheartedly, as her devotion to the classroom and to coherently-organized term papers was something she taught with distinction.
Nancy was also a prolific scholar. She was actively writing articles and preparing editions and monographs for over forty years. Her first publication—on the “Dezir que fizo Juan Alfonso de Baena”—is dated 1977. Her last monograph was finished in 2017 but published posthumously in 2018: it deals with El cancionero de la corte de Carlos V y su autor, Luis de Ávila y Zúñiga. Nancy’s meritorious work on cancionero poetry was first-rate, enriched by her knowledge of the political and social history of the times when they were compiled. This work would lead to her election as Vice President of Convivio, a group based in Alicante working on cancionero manuscripts and print cultures.
Nancy was made an adjunct professor of History at MSU (2009–2011) and her most solid work of a purely historical nature was on the wealth and power of Don Juan Pacheco (2006), a critical and controversial figure of fifteenth-century Spain. Another outstanding monograph involved tracking the history and the reception of Jorge Manrique’s “Coplas” from the late fifteenth century into the twenty-first century (2011). It will surely remain a model for similar works of its kind and will be frequently consulted as Manrique’s “Coplas por la muerte de su padre” is one the most famous poems produced in Spain.
A final note: Nancy F. Marino has earned—as a scholar—a place in the recent history of hispanomedievalism worldwide. However, Nancy was also a dedicated classroom teacher, an effective leader and administrator, a wise adviser to her students and her colleagues. But to those of us who knew her personally, none will be able to forget her infectious sense of humor, her laughter, her generosity and concern for others, the confidence she inspired and her devotion to excellence. R. I. P. [End Page 8]