Professor Norma Mallia had a special knack for engaging her students in foreign language and culture.
Roseann Quinn, an SJC Brooklyn Class of 1969 graduate, and one of Mallia’s students, said she still clearly remembers her professor’s seminar in her senior year, highlighting the work of French playwright Jean Giraudoux. One of Giraudoux’s shows, “The Madwoman of Chaillot,” was playing on Broadway while Quinn was enrolled in the seminar and she went to see the production. Quinn loved the play so much that she purchased the cast album.
Once Mallia caught wind that Quinn saw the play, she asked her to bring the album into class for the whole class to listen to as part of an exercise.
“It was an enjoyable and memorable class listening to the album and noting the similarities and differences between the musical and the original play,” Quinn said.
Quinn’s close relationship with her French professor lasted well beyond her years at St. Joseph’s. The pair kept in touch regularly for the next several decades — until Mallia died in October 2004.
Continuing a Legacy
While Mallia died more than a decade ago, her dedication to helping others is still felt throughout the College and in the hearts of her students.
Mallia never stopped supporting St. Joseph’s students — even after her death. In her will, she left the bulk of her estate to St. Joseph’s College.
Maria Studer, Mallia’s cousin, worked with Sister Elizabeth A. Hill, C.S.J., J.D., to use the money to establish the endowed Professor Norma Mallia Cultural Award for Honors Students. Professors can apply for the award when they plan student trips abroad. The award is intended to pay for cultural “extras” — such as admission to famed artist Claude Monet’s gardens in Giverny, France. The cultural award allows Mallia to continue sharing her love and curiosity about language and culture with current St. Joseph’s students.
While most of Mallia’s estate was willed to the College, she also left personal items to a pair of her former St. Joseph’s students.
“When [Professor Mallia] died, she was gracious enough to leave me a beautiful hand painted stool and a rug,” Quinn said.
Quinn’s mind floods with memories of Mallia whenever she looks at the stool in her bedroom.
“It brings back very good memories,” said Quinn, a retired English teacher. “I’m grateful that it wasn’t just a teacher-to-student relationship in College. We stayed friends as time went by.”
Sharing a Passion for Language
Professor Mallia taught French at St. Joseph’s for 35 years, from 1946-1980. During that time, she took the French department from a series of courses to a major. Toward the end of her career, she added a series of Italian courses, in response to student requests. The modern languages department continues to pass down her passion for new cultures.
Quinn, who graduated with a degree in French, said it was easy to learn a new language from a teacher as engaged as Mallia.
“Because of her, I was able to write term papers directly in French,” Quinn recalled. “I remember being proud of that. Before I would write a paper in English, and then translate it to French.”
When Quinn reminisces about her former professor, her voice elevates with joy. Mallia was the type of person who always put the needs of her family, and others she cared about, ahead of her own. She was a woman of great dignity, humor, intellect and warmth, Quinn recalled.
“She had the ability to just converse,” Quinn said. “I would think about what we could talk about before a phone call, but she had a grace with that. She made you feel important. She had that gift.”