June 8, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 18

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    Pillet, reformer of foreign language teaching methods, dies at age 82

    Roger Pillet, an innovative educator and scholar of the French language, died Monday, May 29, at his home in Chicago. He was 82.

    Pillet, Professor Emeritus in Education and Romance Languages & Literatures, was a dedicated reformer of foreign language teaching methods. Directed by his belief that young students could benefit by learning to speak a foreign language and that they would enjoy doing so, Pillet dedicated much of his career to the development of methods that would facilitate language instruction for children.

    A scholar as well as an educator, his many publications include textbooks, journal articles and classroom materials for teaching French to elementary schoolchildren.

    EN CLASSE, a series of 20 filmstrips and records Pillet developed in 1961 as an introduction to French for first-graders, remains one of his best-remembered contributions to the new curriculum he helped establish. The filmstrips, which feature dolls in situations familiar to young children, emphasize speaking and student participation through songs and captivating illustrations. Schoolchildren around the country still read his 1965 French classic, Andre Fran¨ois Villeneuve, a storybook that features a puppy dog prince who meets a demoiselle, a French poodle named Michelle.

    In 1971, Pillet was named a Chevalier in the Order of the Palmes Academiques by the French government to honor his promotion of French culture.

    “Pillet was a teacher of teachers. He made a serious contribution to the discipline of foreign language instruction,” recalled Peter Dembowski, Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of French in Romance Languages & Literatures.

    “We all remember him with the greatest admiration and affection,” said Philip Jackson, the David Lee Shillinglaw Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus in Education and Psychology. Jackson, a former Chairman of Education, said Pillet was a superb teacher who was much beloved by his students.

    Born in Lyons, France, Pillet received his B.A. in 1939 and his M.A. in 1940 from the University of Missouri. After receiving his Ph.D. from Northwestern University in 1955, he began a position as an Instructor in the College and at the Laboratory Schools at Chicago. He continued his work at the University until 1983, when he accepted emeritus status.

    Pillet, a gifted tenor, was a soloist with the Rockefeller Chapel Choir and performed in many area churches and music venues.

    His wife, Etiennette Pillet; his children, David Pillet, Diana Lear, Danica Polite, Stephen Hurley and Lionelle Elsesser; and his sisters, Yvette Keeling and Suzanne Lee, survive him. He was the grandfather of nine and the great-grandfather of three.

    Services will be private. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Rockhurst High School in Kansas City, Mo., or to the University of Missouri, Columbia.