Obituary — Ernest McCarus


Ernest McCarus, professor emeritus of Arabic and Kurdish languages and linguistics, died April 5 at age 99. He was born Sept. 10, 1922, in Charleston, West Virginia, where he completed his early education.

McCarus came to the University of Michigan in 1940 and received his Bachelor of Arts degree (with distinction) in Japanese in 1945. Following active-duty service in the U.S. Army, he returned to U-M in 1948 and received his Master of Arts in Spanish in 1949. He joined the Department of Near Eastern Studies in 1952 as an instructor of Arabic. After obtaining his Ph.D. in 1956, he became an assistant professor, was promoted to associate professor in 1960 and full professor in 1967.

Ernest McCarus
Ernest McCarus

During his academic service, McCarus was chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies from 1969-77, director of the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad from 1974-83, and director of the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies from 1983-92.

McCarus served U-M as one of its most dedicated teachers and scholars. He played a vital role in the development and expansion of the Arabic program in the Department of Near Eastern Studies from its modest beginning to one of the best programs in the nation, offering B.A., M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in Arabic linguistics, medieval and modern Arabic literature, as well as M.A. degrees in teaching Arabic as a foreign language and Arabic for professional purposes. He also was instrumental in the American Association of Teachers of Arabic efforts to change the methodology of teaching Arabic from the traditional grammar-translation approach to the modern communicative-proficiency approach.

McCarus was an internationally well-known true teacher, scholar and author. He worked professionally and tirelessly, providing extraordinary invaluable contributions, including several books, Arabic textbooks and articles, to the field of Arabic and Kurdish languages and linguistics through several grants from federal agencies.

He was highly respected by his former students, colleagues and acquaintances for his commitment to teaching, deep concern for the welfare of his students and the university community at large and, most importantly, his unassuming and humble personality and modest lifestyle. He was the symbol of the values of decency, of rationality, of honesty and nobility, and peace.

His scholarship and wise judgement were recognized and repeatedly sought out for consultation and evaluation of Arabic and Middle Eastern studies programs. Among his many awards, the American Association of Teachers of Arabic recognized him for his contributions and commitment to the Arabic teaching profession with a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

McCarus belonged to several professional organizations and associations, including the Modern Language Association, the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages, Middle East Studies Association, and the American Research Center in Egypt. He also served as editor of Al-Arabiyya journal, Language Learning and The Middle East Annual, and as manuscript reader for International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies and Foreign Language Annals. The quality and significance of his services have resulted in national and international recognition for himself and U-M.

McCarus always projected an uplifting spirit and looked at the sunny side of everything. His optimism and gentle love will continue to live in our hearts and memories.

He is survived by his wife, Adele; his son, Peter; his daughter, Carol, and son-in-law, Louis Rector. Also surviving are his grandchildren, Matthew and John, and his sister, Norma. A memorial celebration will be announced later.

— Submitted by Raji Rammuny


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