A Tribute to Danièle Van de Velde

November 02, 2021

Former French language instructor in Columbia’s undergraduate and graduate programs at Reid Hall, Danièle Van de Velde passed away on October 6, 2021.

Holding an agrégation in classics, Danièle’s research had consistently focused on the use of linguistic tools for the clarification of pre-philosophical thought inscribed in language. Danièle was a Professor Emeritus at the University of Lille.

One of her students, Columbia Alumna Katia Paykin-Arroues, currently Maîtresse de conférence in Linguistics at the University of Lille poignantly evokes Danièle’s influence on her career and person: 

October 6th 2021 saw Danièle Van de Velde disappearing from our lives, leaving us with an enormous void, suffocating from sorrow and pain. Her students, colleagues, and friends lost someone irreplaceable and unforgettable. There are no words to describe the mourning but there are possible ways to capture what she meant to many of us, whose lives, like mine, were transformed by her presence.

28 years ago I walked into her Advanced French Grammar class in Columbia’s undergraduate program at Reid Hall where she taught me to think in French and to befriend the impossible Bon Usage de Grevisse, where she made me realize that I was doomed to become a linguist and that being scared of your teacher can actually be a positive driving force in your studies. And OH MY was I afraid of her! But inside I always knew she was demanding, fair, benevolent, and caring.  

She guided me in my future studies, directed my PhD thesis, became a remarkable colleague and an essential part of my life. She was a mentor, a role model, a confidente, a friend, a soul mate. She formed me and gave me confidence. She was my pillar of strength and my foundation, my guarantee against madness and a source of fresh air. She was everything and even more. She is no longer among us but each one of those who loved her will keep the light she ignited in our hearts.