Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

It is with great sadness that I write this letter. I learned of Professor [Marcantoine] Crespi’s death a few weeks ago. I knew he had been unwell, but little expected this terrible news.

In 1995, I had the opportunity to spend a semester in Dijon, France with Professor Crespi and a small group of Lafayette students from the class of ’96. To this day, more than 10 years later, I look upon that experience as one of the best of my life. While we went to Dijon primarily to learn French, Professor Crespi’s inexhaustible knowledge and interests opened to us an experience of unexpected depth and range, and we learned so much more.

There was the appreciation of French cuisine, for instance. By selecting, among our prerequisite reads, one of M.F.K. Fisher’s books on her voyage of culinary discovery in Dijon, Professor Crespi set this very tone of discovery for us as well. While we were all on budgets and most of our feasting was relegated to the visual, we learned what to appreciate when we saw it and when to part with our meager francs, especially in the local patisseries and marchés. Professor Crespi was clearly an epicure, and sometimes, like many of us, a gourmand! He often joined us for dinners out. I remember him saying, after one particularly heavy round of gorging all together (probably on moules-frites), that his favorite antidote to a week of overindulgence was to drink a liter of water and to eat a few sticks of celery before calling it an early night. Things would always be better the next day!

There were the classes that he had tailored, ranging from the fun (on French culture, which involved, among other things, watching many new movies and even attending a rock concert) to the more serious (on French politics). Being the year of the French presidential elections, which come around once every seven years, it was in fact a unique opportunity and Professor Crespi made sure we took advantage of it. Some particularly exciting field trips involved attending the campaign rallies of the diverse presidential candidates. It was an incredibly dynamic way of learning the spoken language and the political culture.

I was always struck by the extent of Professor Crespi’s preparation for our classes – fascinating lectures on anything from the French political spectrum to pop culture to French slang, trips to the most au courant of movies, audio tapes of Serge Gainsbourg, Jacques Brel. and Yves Montand, for example, cued just so to illustrate the evolution of French pop music. In addition to educating us, these experiences opened rare windows onto the personality, interests, and humanity of our teacher. It was truly a special time.

When we were not on location (movie theater, rock concert or political rally), our classes with Professor Crespi took place around the dining table at his home. Invariably, after a class ended, books would be put away, and we would get busy throwing together salad and pasta in the kitchen. The conversation would proceed from mild to raucous around the dinner table, and sometimes continue in Dijon’s streets, cafes, and clubs. Professor Crespi helped foster a special camaraderie among a very disparate bunch of students, many of whom would likely never have socialized under normal circumstances on campus.

With his studious look and aristocratic European accent and demeanor, our group of seven students was initially not quite sure what kind of an experience we were in for with Professor Crespi. But by the end of our time in Dijon, we knew we had really lucked out. Hopefully, many more students shared our luck over the years. Lafayette has lost an amazing, dedicated, creative teacher.

Today I am left with many regrets – primarily because I did not keep in touch with Professor Crespi after my years at Lafayette. I wrote to him a few months ago, learning that he was unwell, and expressing briefly my gratitude for our Dijon days. He must have received my letter shortly before he passed away. Despite what must have been his deteriorating condition, ever the gentleman, he took the time to write back. For this interaction I will forever be grateful. I thought it was the start of a long-overdue correspondence. Little did I know it was to be our last communication.

May he rest in peace after his long illness.

Au revoir, Professor Crespi. It was an honor being your student, a long time ago in Dijon.

Tripti Thomas ’96

Categorized in: Academic News