Campus News

Marcia Colish, Frederick B. Artz Emerita Professor of History, Dies at 86

Renowned scholar and teacher also made lasting contributions to campus culture over a career spanning 38 years.

April 18, 2024

Communications Staff

Marcia Colish.
Photo credit: courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

Marcia Colish, a professor of history at Oberlin from 1963 to 2001—including 17 years as the Frederick B. Artz Professor of History—died April 9 in New Haven, Connecticut. She was 86.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, Colish graduated from Smith College in 1958 and earned a PhD from Yale University in 1965, two years after she began teaching at Oberlin. She became an internationally recognized voice in Medieval European intellectual history and the author of nine books, including two-volume studies of the Stoic Tradition and of Italian theologian Peter Lombard, and Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition (1997), which synthesizes her teaching and research.

In the 1960s, Colish led the campaign to abolish Oberlin’s nepotism rule, which prevented both members of a couple from serving on the faculty. In the early 1990s, she was a leading voice in the campaign to reform an antiquated sexual harassment policy.

“In all my years in academia, I have never met a more formidable intellect or a more supportive colleague,” says Leonard V. Smith, Colish’s successor as Frederick B. Artz Professor of History.

“All of us have lost a friend, colleague, and scholar of rare accomplishments,” adds Grover Zinn, Danforth Emeritus Professor of Religion.

Colish donated her body to the Yale University Medical School. Friends and family are planning a memorial mass at St. George’s Catholic Church in Guilford, Connecticut, and a shiva in New York City.

Read more about Colish and share remembrances at

Special thanks to Leonard V. Smith for his extensive contributions to this story.

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