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In the Spotlight: Beloved French Educator Diane Beckman

Newly-retiree Diane Beckman accompanied by Humanities and Social Sciences Dean Jeff Braden (left) and NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson (right) during the retirees luncheon, May 20th.

 |  S. F. Sotillo

For the last 16 years, newly-retired professor Diane Beckman taught French language and world literature at NC State, taking students out of the classroom to visit local museums, attend plays and enjoy many more events in the culturally rich Triangle area.

As Faculty Director for the Study Abroad program in France, Diane also took her students to museums abroad as well as the famous landscape that inspired her favorite Impressionist painter, Claude Monet, in Étretat, Normandy region, France.

In the following interview with Samuel Sotillo, Diane talks among other things about her plans for this new stage in her life as a proud Wolfpack retiree.

SFS: First, could you tell us a little bit about your background? Where are you from? Where did you go to undergrad and graduate school?

DB: I grew up outside Washington DC, in McLean, Virginia, home of the CIA.

Why did you choose teaching?

I started tutoring French as an undergraduate and changed my pre-med major to Classics, Comparative Literature, and French. I started teaching as a grad student at UNC-CH and recognized teaching as a calling.

When you first arrived at NC State?

After finishing my dissertation, I started looking for part-time teaching opportunities in the area. My husband worked for the US Geological Survey in Raleigh and we had moved to Cary from Chapel Hill in 1986. I taught for the Duke Continuing Education program, and then at the Raleigh School for Children, where my own children had gone to preschool. There I replaced Dr. Dudley Marchi, who had been a grad school colleague, as the visiting French teacher. Two years later, I decided to leave and found a position at NCSU.

What in the 16 years that you’ve been with FL&L do you point to and say, “That is what I’m most proud of”?

I am most proud of my FLF 110 (intensive elementary French) and FL 222 (Masterpieces of Western LIterature II) classes. I started simple and built courses I enjoyed teaching making the most of what I learned in graduate school and beyond. We visited the North Carolina Museum of Art, IHOP, and attended plays to make the most of our very culturally rich community. My twelve years as a Faculty Director taking students to France has been the pinnacle of personal and professional satisfaction.

In a different tone, now that you are retiring from teaching, if you could do anything now, what would you do? Why?

The only downside to Study Abroad as that I would teach Fall, Spring and Summer with little down-time. I plan to travel throughout the year now.

My post-retirement plans include full-time volunteer work at the North Carolina Museum of Art, combining my loves of teaching and art. My favorite artwork at the NCMA is Monet’s Cliffs of Étretat, Sunset, and I make two visits to Étretat, France, each summer: a short one with students in late May and a longer one with my husband in July.

What’s your favorite book? Film? Art?

I have been reading voraciously since I was a child. I love narrative fiction! I am a big fan of French cinema, too, and got to know some great films very well by teaching the French cinema course twice.

Are you reading anything right now?

I am reading a book about Rodin’s Burghers of Calais and Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron.

What do you look forward to most presently?

Getting to go to water aerobics class and yoga daily if I want, being able to volunteer any day at the Art Museum and seeing all the National Parks in the US and Europe in the fall and spring. Having more time to visit my children in Fayetteville and Mountain View, California.

Finally, do you have any advice for students who might be thinking about their future career options on why they should consider majoring or minoring in a Foreign Language?

Minoring in a Foreign Language, especially in connection with a Study Abroad Program is a fabulous way to get great personal AND professional experience. Studying Abroad is the best way to add value to your education.

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