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Noel Fallows, 1961-2021

Wednesday, January 12, 2022 - 10:01am
Alan Flurry

University of Georgia Associate Provost for Global Engagement Noel Fallows passed away December 29, 2021 after a protracted illness. 

Noel Fallows contributed in myriad ways to the University of Georgia’s growing international profile and influence, while also participating in some of the most consequential scholarly conversations and debates within his primary academic field of medieval studies. In 1984, he arrived to the university’s Athens, Georgia campus as a graduate student in the Romance Languages Department, having earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Liverpool. From 1986–1991, Fallows worked towards his doctoral degree at the University of Michigan. Upon completing his PhD, he was recruited by the University of Georgia to join its faculty. 

As a scholar of medieval Spanish literature, Fallows published many books, articles, and scholarly editions that yielded new insights about the culture of chivalry in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with particular emphasis on sources from the Iberian Peninsula (coinciding with present-day Spain and Portugal) that had been quite neglected by earlier generations of scholars. He discovered, transcribed, translated, and meticulously annotated rare chivalric texts. To elucidate the complex themes and sources required a rare combination of skills: a wide knowledge of the literature pertaining to chivalry; a firm command of political and military history from the late Middle Ages and throughout the Renaissance; a detailed understanding of the technicalities of military artefacts, their fabrication, and structure; a knowledge of how knights performed on the battlefield and in the lists; and an imaginative grasp of how such practicalities impacted on the history of ideas. Over time, Fallows developed an encyclopedic knowledge of Iberian arms and armor, their evolution, strength, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. Crucially, he was able to explain the technicalities of this material with clarity, concision, and a rich, dry humor. No less striking was his ability to locate relevant artifacts and to enhance his readers’ comprehension with meticulously selected and impeccably reproduced illustrations. One particularly memorable publication was his monumental study, Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia, published in 2010 and translated into Spanish in 2020. He received numerous awards and honors over the years, including election in 2012 as a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He was also awarded the University of Georgia’s major research prizes: the Creative Research Medal (2013); the Albert Christ-Janer Award for Creative Research (2014); and the Distinguished Research Professorship (2015).

As a teacher in the Department of Romance Languages, he inspired undergraduate and graduate students to immerse themselves in the Spanish language and its rich literary traditions, while challenging them to attain maximum academic rigor in their classwork. He favored assigned readings of Medieval and Renaissance texts from scholarly editions used to prepare serious academic studies, as opposed excerpts found in teaching anthologies. Thus, his students engaged scholarly conversations early and often. He leavened challenging lessons and assignments with his understated wit, rendered in the distinctive cadences of his native Liverpool. Students admired his ability to present complex material in engaging ways. He earned a string of competitive teaching awards, including the Sandy Beaver Award for Excellence in Teaching awarded by Franklin College of Arts and Sciences and the Richard B. Russell Undergraduate Teaching Award bestowed by the Office of the Provost. He was elected to the University of Georgia’s Teaching Academy in 2002, which serves as an incubator for teaching excellence, bringing together award-winning faculty from across campus to promote new strategies and initiatives.

In his first foray into university administration, Fallows served as Head of the Department of Romance Languages from 1999–2006. During his tenure as Department Head, this large and diverse department comprised students and faculty from as many as fifteen different countries. As well, the four different language sections—French, Italian, Portuguese, and Spanish—brought together strikingly varied research agendas under one roof.  Perhaps his most significant legacy as department head was his internationalization of the department’s educational mission, as he supported a cadre of Romance Languages faculty who developed study abroad programs in Spain, France, Brazil, Peru, and Argentina. 

These leadership accomplishments led to his promotion to the position of Associate Dean of Franklin College of Arts and Sciences, which he held from 2007–16. His devised a program to bring prominent scholars from universities around the world to teach summer courses, organized faculty exchanges that paired Georgia faculty with scholars at prestigious universities abroad, and enabled UGA faculty to teach courses in residential study abroad programs in Cortona, Italy and Oxford, England. He also began a partnership with his alma mater, the University of Liverpool. Fallows also enhanced need-based international scholarship programs so that more students could afford to participate in study abroad. In recognition of this work, Fallows received the Richard Reiff Internationalization Award in 2014.

Fallows’s dedication to international programs at the University of Georgia culminated in his position as the Associate Provost for Global Engagement. Here, he oversaw Georgia’s intricate web of international projects and services that included: a diverse constellation of study abroad programs, as well as field research programs away from campus; immigration services needed by students and faculty from outside the United States; scholarship programs for study abroad; and seed grant programs designed to nurture new research collaborations between UGA faculty and universities around the world. Of course, the administration of study and research across the globe always carries grave responsibilities for the health and safety of participants. In this position, Fallows worked closely with staff and affiliated faculty to make risk management both robust and flexible.

In reviewing the arc of Fallows’s career in university administration, it bears mention that academic training and work as a faculty member do not provide the kind of management training typically found in business or government. Fallows developed and refined a distinctive managerial style, seeming to combine the critical acumen of an expert medievalist with something more homespun but also quite magical—a blend of humor and modesty. As an administrator and mentor, Fallows trusted people to do their best. He eschewed the ever-present temptation to micromanage, while providing steady guidance and supervision when sought or needed. When problems arose, he acted with maximum discretion and the necessary speed. A complicated issue often yielded the promise to “look into this,” followed in due course with a clear and helpful response. Unwelcome news was presented with empathy and tact. Alas, his colleagues and friends left behind must now find their own ways to come to terms with the most unwelcome news of all—his departure sooner than we would have hoped or expected. But we have his inspiring life and accomplishments to ponder and celebrate. 

Fallows is survived by his wife, Kristin Pope. Noel and Kristin established The Kristin M. Pope and Noel Fallows Support Fund for International Veterinary Medicine, born from their shared passion for animals and world travel.  This fund supports a UGA College of Veterinary Medicine student participating in a global animal health externship with the unique opportunity to develop sustainable, useful practices in developing communities alongside locals that will impact generations to come.  To mail your gift, please make your check out to UGA Foundation, include “In memory of Dr. Fallows” in the memo line, and mail to:

University of Georgia Foundation

University of Georgia

Athens, GA 30602


Article by 

Betsy Wright

Distinguished Research Professor of Spanish Literature

University of Georgia

Image: Dr. Fallows with his book, Jousting in Medieval and Renaissance Iberia.

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