The Columns

W&L Mourns Loss of H. Marshall Jarrett, Emeritus History Professor

— by on February 10th, 2010

H. Marshall Jarrett, professor of history at Washington and Lee University from 1963 to 2000 and a member of the Class of 1952, died Tuesday, Feb. 9, at Heritage Hall in Lexington. He was 79.

“Marshall’s warm and generous personality and his dedication to the craft of teaching made him a cherished member of this community,” said President Kenneth P. Ruscio. “His former students, and I include myself among them, remember well his courses on European history and the French Revolution. He left his mark, and it was an impressive one.”

A memorial service will be held this Saturday, Feb. 13, at 2 p.m. at the Lexington Presbyterian Church. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that individuals make a contribution to the charity of their choice.

Jarrett was a native of Oklahoma, where his great-grandparents and grandparents had been leaders in the development of the Oklahoma Territory. He was born in Oklahoma City and grew up in Chandler.

As an undergraduate at W&L, he belonged to Sigma Alpha Epsilon social fraternity, and was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Alpha Theta academic honor societies. He studied under William A. Jenks ’39, another longtime professor of history at the University. After graduation, he spent two years in law school at the University of Oklahoma and two years in the army before returning to W&L as a Scholar of the University to study foreign languages before entering graduate school.

Jarrett received his M.A. (1959) and Ph.D. (1962) in history from Duke University. During the second semester of his final year in graduate school, he did research in Paris at the Bibliotheque Nationale. From 1962 to 1963, he served as an assistant professor of history at Westminster College, in Fulton, Mo., before returning to W&L.

Jarrett served as head of the History Department from 1983 to 1988. He taught courses in the Old Regime, the French Revolution and Napoleonic France, as well as European intellectual history and the first-year survey of European history. He belonged to the Society for French Historical Studies, the Society for 18th Century Studies, and the American Historical Society.

In 1967, Jarrett received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the first year the NEH gave such awards. He used it for research into 18th-century French intellectual history at Harvard University and the British Museum, and by attending the International Congress for the Enlightenment at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland. In 1986-87, Jarrett spent the academic year in Oxford, participating in W&L’s Oxford Faculty Exchange program. In the summer of 1987 he studied at the University of Orleans and returned to France during his sabbatical in the spring of 1993.

In 2000, he received the Dr. William W. Pusey III Award from the students’ Executive Committee, which acknowledges the faculty or staff member who has made the greatest contribution to the University. Two years after he retired from the University faculty, Jarrett served on the faculty for a W&L Alumni College, “The Life and Times of Napoleon.” In 2007, Martin E. Stein ’74 and Brooke Stein established a professorship because of their regard for Jarrett, Professor Jenks and Professor Henry P. Porter Jr. ’54.

When he retired, his departmental colleagues Richard Bidlack, J. Holt Merchant ’61 and Henry Porter presented a tribute calling him “a demanding but kind mentor” and remembering “his formidable contributions to the University.” Of his tenure as department chair, they wrote, “It is a testament to his refined managerial skills that he was able to maintain order, decorum and civility among a group that is widely recognized to be the last bastion on this campus of true and unbridled eccentricity.”

Jarrett was an avid sportsman who loved the outdoors. He served as an elder of the Lexington Presbyterian Church, where, along with his wife, Charlene, he started the church’s first coeducational Sunday school class for adults in 1963.

He is survived by his wife, Charlene; their sons, Charles and David; two grandsons, Marshall Jarrett and Justin Nuchols; and his daughter-in-law, Deborah Jarrett