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Gabara named inaugural Nancy Gillespie Brinning Professor in French

Alan Flurry

University of Georgia faculty member Rachel Gabara has been named the first Nancy Gillespie Brinning Professor in French. The endowed professorship, approved by UGA and the USG Board of Regents at their February meeting, becomes effective August 1, 2024.

Gabara, Undergraduate Coordinator in the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences department of Romance Languages, teaches literature and film in French, with a particular focus on nonfiction and historical fiction from France and sub-Saharan Africa. 

The author of From Split to Screened Selves: French and Francophone Autobiography in the Third Person (Stanford UP, 2006), Gabara has published widely on European and African cinema, with recent essays in celebrated journals French Screen Studies and Modernism/modernity. Research for her current book manuscript, "Reclaiming Realism: From Documentary Film in Africa to African Documentary Film” (Indiana UP, forthcoming) was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Philosophical Society, and the Fulbright Scholar Program. 

"I’m thrilled to be named the first holder of a professorship that honors a devoted student of French, pioneering professional woman, and visionary donor to the university," said Gabara, 2021 winner of UGA’s Albert Christ-Janer Creative Research Award and 2024 awardee of a French in Higher Education Grant from the Albertine Foundation and Embassy of France in Washington D.C. "I am committed to sharing my understanding of French as a vibrant, global language, and the Brinning Professorship will support my continuing research while allowing me to expand my outreach efforts here on campus."

Nancy Gillespie Brinning graduated cum laude from the University of Georgia in 1948, with a major in French and a minor in Spanish. In her work for the Piedmont Natural Gas Company in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mrs. Brinning drew upon the writing and editorial skills she sharpened at UGA to improve communications within her company and those between the company and its shareholders, editing communications with care and eliminating sexist language from company policies. She rose to Board Secretary and eventually, Vice President, becoming the first woman elected to a board of directors in the natural gas industry.

In a May 2003 Department of Romance Languages Newsletter, Brinning recounted how she applied skills she acquired as a French major and a Spanish minor to excel in business. 

“Know your value and skills, take the initiative to use them, and then speak up to gain recognition for them,” she said, encouraging students who wish to pursue professional careers after graduation to prepare themselves with programs of study in the liberal arts.

“The faculty in Romance Languages is delighted to congratulate Professor Gabara on this well-deserved honor,” said Dana Bultman, Professor of Spanish and head of the department of Romance Languages. “Over the years she has gained a sterling international reputation for ambitious, and innovative interdisciplinary research, which, in turn, has informed her equally rigorous and effective teaching and dedicated service. We also celebrate Nancy Gillespie Brinning, whose legacy will continue to have a strong positive impact on students of French at UGA for years to come.”

Image: Rachel Gabara


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