The loss of our esteemed colleague and friend William Crossgrove

William CrossgroveWilliam Crossgrove

It is with great sadness that we note the passing or our colleague Professor William Crossgrove on November 29, 2018. Born in Archbold, Ohio on June 6, 1938, he grew up as a member of a farming family. He graduated with an AB degree in German from Ohio University in 1959, and became a graduate student at the University of Texas in Austin where, in 1962, he submitted his Ph.D. dissertation Vowel Quantity in Proto-Germanic.

Arriving at Brown University in 1962, Bill rose through the ranks to become a Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature. He taught courses on Middle High German, Old High German, Old Saxon, Old Icelandic and Gothic plus courses on the history and comparative linguistics of German.  In 1970, Bill and other medievalists formed the Brown Medieval Group, which sponsored independent concentrations on medieval subjects. In 1980, as the Committee on Medieval Studies, these faculty members assumed responsibility for a standard undergraduate concentration in Medieval Studies, and in 1994 the Committee became the Program in Medieval Studies.

Bill’s research focused on vernacular knowledge literature, particularly medieval herbals and handbooks on agriculture. His approach to studying medieval manuscripts was thoroughly modern, and by the mid-1960s he had already published in the field of computational linguistics. Among his publications are his 1994 book, Die deutsche Sachliteratur des Mittelalters, that studied texts dealing with realia, with objects that can be perceived and described, and his Der deutsche Macer: Vulgatfassung, 2003, written in collaboration with Bernhard Schnell, that analyzed a German herbal published in the thirteenth century. The breadth of Bill’s interests are reflected in his contributions to our team-taught course, Medieval Perspectives, which included "Medicine and the Transmission of Classical Learning," "Monastic Medicine and Folk Healing," "Arabic Medicine and its Consequences," "Monasteries as Enterprises," "Maps and Clocks," and "Medieval Technology and the American Frontier." Bill taught as well a variety of interdisciplinary topics including the History of Hunger, which led to his co-editing the book Hunger in History: Food Shortage, Poverty and Deprivation, 2003.

Bill also left his mark in administration: as chair of his department, as Associate Dean of the Faculty and as Senior Fellow of the Wayland Collegium. He retired in 2003 but shortly thereafter became Administrative Director of the George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation, a position he held until 2016. 

Bill had a strong commitment to social justice. He was a member of the Committee on Racial Equality and the American Civil Liberties Union. During the 1960s, he and his wife were active in the Civil Rights movement, and they remained involved in other progressive causes. During the decades before the end of the Cold War, he was actively involved in issues of war and peace, particularly the avoidance of nuclear war.  Deeply engaged in local environmental issues, he was a member of the Salt Pond Coalition and a volunteer at the Kettle Pond visitor center.  He was also a docent at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. 

Bill was a founding member of a men’s group that has met bimonthly for 39 years.  The remaining members of that group will miss his warmth, thoughtfulness, humor, keen insights and his ability to draw effortlessly and instantly on his encyclopedic knowledge of diverse subjects.

He was a great contributor to his field, a mentor to his students and a valued colleague of faculty in the Program of Medieval Studies.

We will miss our friend and colleague deeply, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to his wife, Lo (Hannelore Guenther Crossgrove) and children, Kirsten and Dylan.

We plan a public lecture and a reception in his memory on February 21st, 2019, (see “Events” page.)



Sheila Bonde
Professor of History of Art and Architecture

Elizabeth Johnson Bryan
Associate Professor of English

Jonathan Conant
Assistant Professor of History

Susan Ashbrook Harvey
Willard Prescott and Annie McClelland Smith Professor of Religious Studies

Nancy Khalek
William A. Dyer, Jr. Assistant Professor of Humanities

Ronald Martinez
Professor of Italian Studies

William Monroe 
Senior Scholarly Resources Librarian


Jeffrey Moser 
Assistant Professor of History of Art and Architecture

 Elias Muhanna
Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature

Stratis Papaioannou
Associate Professor of Classics

Joseph Pucci
Professor of Classics

Amy Remensnyder
Associate Professor of History

Michael Satlow
Professor of Judaic Studies and Religious Studies

Mercedes Vaquero
Director of the Program in Medieval Studies, Professor of Hispanic Studies


Emeritus Faculty

Michel-André Bossy
Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature

Sanda Golopentia
Professor Emerita of French Studies

Robert C.  Mathiesen 
Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages


James McIlwain
Professor Emeritus of Neuroscience

Geoffrey Russom
Professor Emeritus of English

Don Wilmeth
Professor Emeritus of English

Medieval Studies Affiliated Postdocs and Visiting Faculty

Lesley Jacobs
Visiting Assistant Professor of English



Maria Sokolova
Academic  Program Manager