Associate Professor of Modern Languages Dr. Steve Maddux announced that this semester will be his last at the University of Dallas.
“The vision [of retirement] presented itself to me this semester,” Maddux said, adding that he has had the idea for some time but wanted someone else to whom he could hand leadership of the French department.
Maddux, alumnus class of ’71, who returned to the university as a professor for the French department in the early ’80s, has contributed not only to the French major but also to the comparative literary traditions program and the classics department.
“He pretty much built the French program that we have now,” assistant French professor Dr. Jason Lewallen said. “He developed the Lit Trad sequences [as well as] the French plays. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of literature and theology … I don’t think I saw that kind of knowledge at all, even in my graduate school experience. His French is more elegant than most people’s, and his English is, too.”
Lewallen, who will be taking over Maddux’s role as UD’s Fulbright program advisor, added that Maddux has been a good friend of his ever since he interviewed for a position in the French department in the spring of 2014.
“I remember we stayed up late at night having long conversations about theology,” Lewallen said. “He comes over a lot to watch movies with [me and my wife.]”
Currently, Lewallen is working with Dr. Jacob-Ivan Eidt, chair of modern languages, to hire a professor to replace Maddux in the fall.
He hopes to find someone with a pre-modern specialty to fill Maddux’s role as the department’s medievalist and to complement his own specialty in the modern period.
“It will be virtually impossible to find someone who can take his place, but we’ll do our best,” Lewallen said.
Maddux spent his undergraduate career at UD as a double major in English and French in the university’s first few decades of existence, when the surrounding area and the campus itself looked quite different.
“It was desert-like,” Maddux said. “Half of [the Haggar University Center] wasn’t there. [Highway] 114 wasn’t finished, and North Irving didn’t exist. The Rome program started then, but I didn’t go.”
Maddux took Lit Trad I and II from Dr. John Alvis when Dr. Alvis was a graduate student at the university.
“[The English program] was different while I was here … I know Lit Trad III went much further than it does now,” Maddux said. “I chose Tennyson as my Junior Poet because I wanted to be different. He wasn’t part of the canon of the English department at the time; he wasn’t one of their favorites. They considered him a second-order poet.”
After graduating, Maddux taught in France through a government teaching program similar to the Fulbright program.
Although he did not have the chance to spend a semester in Rome as an undergraduate, he did go on the Greece trip with students as an alumnus during a short break from teaching in France.
Upon his return to the United States, Maddux attended graduate school at the University of Chicago, from which he received his Ph.D. in comparative studies in literature, with an emphasis in French.
Maddux took another opportunity to travel abroad during his time as a graduate student, this time to Münster, Germany through another “quasi-Fulbright program,” he said.
He also spent some time at the University of Toronto, specifically the Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies (PIMS), before returning to UD.
“[Coming back to teach at UD] wasn’t really a question in my mind, but I was happy to return,” Maddux said.
Maddux said that the highlight of his time as a French professor has been the French plays he occasionally directs, the last of which will be performed on April 21.
Among his best-known accomplishments is the creation of his class on Tolkien and heroic fantasy, which he considers perhaps the most important class he has taught, and his class on Arthurian romance.
Many graduate students know him for his French for Reading Knowledge course and his world courses, which he may continue teaching as distance courses or as a visiting lecturer in the future.
Whether or not he officially teaches these and other classes, Maddux plans to put much of his course material on his website, MadBeppo.com, alongside his encyclopedic collection of French grammar tips, bits of writing advice and French songs.
During his retirement, Maddux may spend some time in scholarly pursuits, but he mostly plans to spend time having fun.
“There are many films to be seen — TV series to watch, operas [to attend],” Maddux said. “Plus I plan to learn to play the harpsichord.”
Perhaps it is Lewallen who can best sum up what students and faculty alike will miss most about Maddux.
“He’s just a sweet guy,” Lewallen said. “He’s one of the most popular professors in modern languages … I don’t know what anyone could possibly dislike about him.”