Aug. 16, 2022
Our longtime undergraduate administrator in the English Department, Marcia Rosh, passed away on August 4. She came to the department as assistant to the chair in 1987, and soon after became steward of the undergraduate program, watching over generations of students until her retirement in 2018. After a week of sharing fond memories, we have gathered a few thoughts from members of the faculty.
Diana Fuss: “Marcia was beloved to me, as to so many others in the Princeton English Department. For over thirty years we joked and laughed and ended all our conversations grinning ‘What next?’ Marcia was assistant to the Department Chair when I first arrived, and it was she who welcomed me into the department and guided me through my early years as an assistant professor. It is an understatement to say that without her kindness I would have been lost. When she became the Undergraduate Administrator, charged with the even greater task of shepherding more than 200 students each year through the program, I knew our majors were in the best of hands. That she knew not only all the students’ names but their personal stories and future dreams is a remarkable testament to her warmth, compassion, and care for her charges. In her life and in her work, Marcia indelibly touched the lives not of dozens, not of hundreds, but of thousands. I, for one, continue to hear her voice in my head. ‘What next?’”
Starry Schor: “Marcia Rosh was dear to me, as to so many of my colleagues. She was by my side when I was Dep Rep and shepherded countless students, warmly and encouragingly, through our department; the applause for her at Class Day was as bright as her customary bouquet of flowers. She once saved me from a fashion mistake before my son’s bar mitzvah—I owe her so much, now as always, and am grateful for it all.”
Susan Wolfson: “I came to Princeton unofficially in 1989, and then joined the faculty in ’91—pretty much in Marcia’s wake. She was already a fixture in the office. With her desk right near the main door, she also functioned as a de facto hostess, guiding visitors and guests, and greeting everyone who came by. Returning students and former faculty also made their first stop at Marcia’s desk to get caught up on everything. She was a pretty much a den mother to the undergraduate majors as they completed their course requirements, JPs and SPs, and they adored her and showered their thanks on Class Day. As for me, Marcia was my fashion-buddy girlfriend as well as reliable office help. Rest in peace, dear.”
Anne Cheng: “Marcia was such an integral part of our department and our community for so many years! It seems to me I can still see her at her desk when I walk into McCosh 22. She has not been forgotten. I send her family my condolences and wish them much strength and clarity through this difficult loss.”
Sophie Gee: “I am deeply sad to hear of Marcia's death. She was extraordinarily kind to me for many years, both during my time as an assistant professor, and afterwards when I was DUS. Everyone knows how full of life and spirit Marcia was. She ran the undergraduate program from those filing drawers and the stacks of manilla folders and blue cards, marked up in her distinctive handwriting. She took generation after generation of students through McCosh Hall. She was universally beloved by the undergraduates, and she was unfailingly kind and patient with their trials and tribulations. As DUS I had weekly chats with Marcia about the students and the various ways in which we needed to tweak their records to get them through the degree without mishap. But, of course, much of the time we talked about our lives, our kids, the things that were going well and the things that (inevitably) were not. I had a clear sense of Marcia's rich, eventful family life outside McCosh. She was so intensely proud of her children and grandchildren. There was no doubting the depth of her love. When I had children of my own Marcia was so encouraging and supportive. She pinned a photo of me and my children (aged 6 months and 3 years) over the desk in her office, and I see it so vividly now—it captures one of the most important periods of my life when I was learning to juggle motherhood and Princeton—happily, but with so much uncertainty and exhaustion. Marcia really understood this, and gave me her support. I’ve thought of Marcia often and hoped that these last years passed well with the family and friends whom she loved so much. I want to offer my sincerest condolences to her children and grandchildren, who will miss her so dearly. I can imagine how powerful and present a mother she was, and I can imagine that this is the saddest time for you all.”
Jeff Nunokawa: “Marcia was a source of joy and light in so many lives at Princeton, including my own. I don’t know what my own years at Princeton, and therefore much of my life would have been without her. The way she was with the kids, the way she was with me: we all knew what it was like to feel her love. The way she could scold me for my mistakes as well as cover for my defects; the way she cared for everyone around her; the way she made me laugh; the way she always understood everything that truly mattered: I’ll never forget her.”
I myself worked with her closely when I was departmental representative, nominally her faculty counterpart, in practice her obedient, and grateful, factotum. (As Professor Nigel Smith put it to me, “She was usually right”—no faint praise from Nigel, as those who know him know.) In my first year I bought my own coffee maker, to keep in my office, so that I could refill without coming in range of her desk when I was unprepared. I feared her irresistible mix of administrative rigor, wisdom, and choice gossip. But I loved it just as much—no, much more—and I miss it now. McCosh still echoes with the thunderous applause of generations of students who stood to thank her on Class Day, with shouts and flowers. We owe her much and remember her with deep affection and gratitude.