24 November 2016

In memoriam Rosemary Orr

Dr. Rosemary Orr, senior lecturer at University College Utrecht (UCU), died on 15 November 2016 after battling cancer. Her funeral and cremation in Amersfoort took place three days later. She is survived by her husband of 18 years, the linguist David van Leeuwen, and their two teenage children.

Born 6 January 1965 and raised in Ireland, Rosemary received her bachelor’s degree in history and Germanic studies at Trinity College Dublin in 1987. For many years she was a full-time chef in Dublin before returning to academe, obtaining an M.Phil in linguistics at Trinity in 1995, a field in which she remained active for the rest of her life. She was subsequently involved in several research projects, including the Applied Speech/Synthesis Techniques Project funded by the European Space Agency. Starting in 1998 she conducted research at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, culminating in her PhD. thesis in 2005, entitled ‘Methods of Voice Analysis for Estimating the Robustness of the Student Teacher’s Voice.’ A phonetician by training, her recent research focused on accents, as evidenced in her UCU Accent Project and the Sprekend Nederland project, which captured national attention in the last year of her life. Having learned Dutch in her thirties, she spoke it nearly without error or accent herself.

In 2002 she joined the staff at UCU, first solely as a tutor, later as a teacher, helping to further develop the linguistics curriculum. She was extraordinarily active in the life of the college, including Honours director and Senior Tutor for academic affairs, tasks in which she showed administrative flair. In recent months she chaired the Blue Ribbon Committee which set the agenda for improving professional opportunities at the college.

Universally regarded by her colleagues as an outsized personality, Rosemary was never far from discussions about the direction of UCU, and she was a leading light in college life. Above all, she was a dedicated and talented tutor and teacher whose combination of high standards, humor and encouragement inspired in many cohorts of students their awe and love. She was also a fabled story-teller.

Rosemary’s commanding presence, her forceful intellect and pure joie de vivre renders her loss all the more devastating. It is hard to imagine what UCU will be like without her, and her departure from amongst us is, for that reason, all the more difficult to bear.