Rufus King Marsh, a university professor and preparatory schoolteacher of French language and literature and, later, a technical writer, died peacefully of natural causes at the age of 86 on February 26, 2023, at his home in Clinton, CT, with his wife Fruzsina at his side. They had been together for nearly 70 years.
He is survived by his wife and their children, Alice, Jonathan and Catherine, seven grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
Rufus was born in New York City on February 10, 1937, and grew up in Bedford NY, near the village of Mt. Kisco, where his lifelong passion for nature was kindled among the fields, hills, woodlands and streams of the watersheds of the Kisco River and Byram Lake.
His received his primary school education at Chappaqua Public Schools and Harvey School. He attended St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, graduating in 1954. He then attended Harvard College, first studying biology and enrolling in a pre-medical program, but eventually earning his bachelor's degree, in 1958, in Romance Languages and Literatures. Throughout his schooldays, he participated in athletics, including ice hockey, rowing, lacrosse, tennis and football. While attending Harvard College, he enlisted in the Naval ROTC. After his honorable discharge from the NROTC, he enlisted in the Army National Guard, from which he also received an honorable discharge. He spent the summer after graduation sailing the Aegean with a classmate. He attended the Harvard Graduate School of Design for a year. He then earned a master's degree in French from Columbia University. He later earned a Ph.D. degree from Stanford University in French. While pursuing his doctoral studies at Stanford, he won a Fulbright scholarship in Classical Languages and Literatures to study the original manuscripts of the 17th century French playwright, Molière at the University of Paris Sorbonne. The title of his dissertation was The Theoretical Concept of the Honnête Homme (1658-1671) and His Role in Molière.
Rufus began his career as a teacher of French language and literature at Portsmouth Priory School (now Abbey) in Rhode Island, leaving to join the faculty at St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire, where he also coached crew for Shattuck Boat Club. After earning his doctorate from Stanford, he took the position of Assistant Professor of French Language and Literature at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 1974 until 1981. He then taught French at Evansville Day School, a private secondary school in Evansville, Indiana. During summer breaks, he worked as a technical writer at the pharmaceutical company Mead Johnson. He enjoyed the work and was eventually asked to join the company, which had become part of Bristol Myers, in its new medical writing department. He then pivoted his career and spent the next twenty years working as a medical writer for Bristol Myers Squibb, Biogen and Purdue Pharma, from which he retired as a senior medical writer in 2004.
During his career as a teacher, he made innovative use of comics to teach colloquial French, writing an article about it for the French Review. He also published scholarly articles on the Honnête Homme. While working in the pharmaceutical industry, he collaborated on several articles on clinical drug development.
Rufus’s parents were Norman J. Marsh, 1894-1973, a banker and stockbroker, and Cornelia van Rensselaer King, 1911-1989, active in promoting the arts in Northern Westchester and a co-founder of Cisqua School near Mt. Kisco. He is survived by his older brother Norman J. Marsh, Jr. of North Andover, MA and Langdon Marsh, of Brooklyn, NY. His younger sister, Cornelia van Rensselaer Marsh, called Lela, died in 1959 at the age of 10.
Contributions may be made in his memory to Marsh Sanctuary in Mt. Kisco, NY at https://www.marshsanctuary.org/
Marsh Sanctuary, 114 South Bedford Road, Mt. Kisco, NY 10549
Phone: (914) 218-3022
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