As a young man, the late Marcus Allen studied French through frigid Pittsburgh winters, warming himself by the heat of his kitchen stove.
He captured his experiences in his autobiography “One Life: A Memoir.” A copy of the book is housed in the Amistad Research Center at Tulane University in New Orleans.
“During those days, Pittsburgh was an ethnic town,” Allen wrote. “Each group staked out a little piece of the land and defended it vehemently. The rich lived in the far off suburbs where steel mills belching smoke and flames did not pollute the air. Blacks were left to live on the side streets and in the alleys.”
“Although Marcus came from humble circumstances, he had a goal in life, and he found a means to reach it,” said Mary Allen, his wife.
After serving in World War II and earning a PhD in French from the University of Pittsburgh, he would go onto become a beloved scholar and mentor. Over a fruitful career, he would write internationally lauded articles on Voltaire, win the 1972 Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, serve as a member of The Friendship Force and play an integral role in growing the University of Missouri–St. Louis.
Not only did he institute UMSL’s exchange student program, lead the Department of Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures and serve on strategic planning committees, he offered students guidance and friendship.
UMSL has honored his contributions and legacy with the dedication of the Dr. Marcus Allen Advising Center located in 302 Lucas Hall. Mary Allen described how her husband might feel about the event.
“Since Dr. Allen was a modest, reserved, non-pretentious individual, I think he would feel honored,” she said during the day of the ceremony. “But knowing him as well as I did, I think he would also be humbled by being recognized in this way.”
Mary Allen found the addition of a student advisory office at UMSL to be a direct continuation of Allen’s efforts.
“Dedicating the advising center at the college of arts and sciences to my husband is a fitting memorial to him,” she said. “He had a special connection to his students, and they to him. This connection was evident in the letters they wrote in support of my naming proposal.”
The September 3 event attracted a multitude of Allen’s former students and colleagues. Jeanne Zarucchi, professor of art history and French and 2015 recipient of the Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques, opened the ceremony with remarks spoken in French.
Faculty members offered their praise for Allen’s achievements, and most importantly, Mary Allen expressed admiration for her husband and the UMSL community.
“On behalf of his family, Diane, Amanda, Mark and me, I’d like to say this dedication is a high honor,” she said. “He loved UMSL, and this recognition is returning that love to him and to us.”