Laura Durand died September 4, 2021 at her home in Providence, Rhode Island after a short illness. She leaves her husband, Frank Durand in Providence, sons, David (Elli) and John (Kate) of Bainbridge Island, and three grandchildren, Laura, Despina and Aubrey; she was a Professor Emerita of French Literature at Brown University. Her funeral will be held at St Martin’s Episcopal Church in Providence on November 6th.
Born in the small town of Osborne, Ohio in 1930, she was the first in her family to attend college. She graduated summa cum laude from Miami University (Ohio) in 1952 and was a member of the Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Delta Phi honor societies, and the Gamma Phi Beta Sorority (where she played the Ukulele). She won a Fulbright grant to spend a memorable year in Grenoble, France studying French literature and earning a certificate in Phonetics. She attended Northwestern University where she received her MA in 1954. It was there that she met Frank Durand, her husband of 66 years. They wed in 1955, and spent a year in Japan where Frank did his military service, before going together to the University of Michigan for their PhD studies. They moved to Providence in 1960, when he became a professor at Brown, and had two children while she finished her dissertation (1963).
She became a professor at Brown despite pre-existing policies prohibiting spouses from being on the faculty, and through the 60s and 70s was active in documenting the unfair treatment of women at the university: chairing a committee of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors on hiring of women at Brown; organizing meetings and events about women’s issues and careers, especially in academia; and later on, helping to create formal, objective processes of evaluation for tenure. In addition to teaching, she served as Associate Dean of the Graduate School, Department chair, and Dean of Special Studies.
She was whip-smart but not stuffy. As a longtime member of the Wednesday Club debating group in Rhode Island, she once successfully defended the proposition that “The Reader’s Digest is indigestible” in a mock debate. She loved music (Classical mostly, but also Pink Floyd, Hank Williams, and the occasional cowboy song). She read omnivorously, and had a great love for poetry, detective novels, and Tolkien.
In retirement, she took up golf, learned to paint, sang in church choirs (garnering a trip to the National Cathedral to sing for South Carolina). She and Frank loved to explore new places, traveling to Europe many times, and around the world once. As their work wound down, they moved: first living on Block Island, RI, they retired to Hilton Head Island, SC for 10 years, then moved to Bainbridge Island, WA, Palm Desert, CA, and finally, for the last five years, back to Providence. At each stop on the way, she was an active member of local readers’ groups, library and condo boards, and committees.
Information about the funeral may be found at: https://lauragdurand.com. Suggested donations in lieu of flowers are also provided on the web site.