Elizabeth Oliver

Posted:June 2015

Lisi Oliver, Alumni Professor of English and Linguistics at Louisiana State University, died unexpectedly on Sunday June 7, 2015, just 63 years old. She is survived by her brothers Bim, Gus, and Peter as well as by her niece, Lily, and her nephew, Matthew.

Lisi was born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1951. She attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. Upon graduating with a B.A. in theatre and speech in 1973, she entered the world of opera, working for several years as an assistant to Sara Caldwell at the Opera Company of Boston. Seeking new and different professional challenges, she enrolled at Harvard University, where she earned a master’s degree in 1989 and her PhD in Linguistics in 1995; she also became a member of the Linguistic Society of America in 1989. Lisi joined the English/Linguistics faculty at LSU in 1996, concentrating on early medieval and comparative law but serving, as she put it, as "a type of utility infielder, teaching courses in historical linguistics, History of English, Old English, Old Irish, Old Norse, Pidgins and Creoles and Arthurian literature.” Lisi became a keystone member of the English Department faculty and a vital and visible scholar in medieval studies in the United States and Europe, earning recognition by her peers as a leader in her field. She authored several books on early English law including The Beginnings of English Law (University of Toronto Press 2002) an edition, translation and commentary on the earliest laws in the English language, and The Body Legal in Barbarian Law (University of Toronto Press 2011), a study of personal injury tariffs in Germanic law from 450-850.

She will always be remembered for her dedication to teaching and learning which made her an inspiring professor and colleague. Her goal at LSU, she once said, was to make "a large university feel like a small and dynamic learning community." Lisi’s career was distinguished by her extraordinary energy. She earned many university awards for undergraduate teaching and advising, as well as the LSU English Graduate Student Association Award for Outstanding Graduate Faculty Member. In addition, Lisi earned numerous research awards, including LSU's prestigious Distinguished Research Master award. In 2014 she earned an American Council of Learned Societies Colaborative Fellowship (with Stefan Juranski of SUNY Brockport) for the project entitled The Laws of Alfred and Ine: An Edition and Interpretative Commentary. Lisi was also an outstanding faculty leader and mentor who served as director of several programs, notably the Interdepartmental Linguistics Program, which she directed from 2010 to 2014.

As important as academics was to her, it only constituted a part of Lisi's life, which also revolved around music (ukulele, mandolin, and singing), bicycling (in Louisiana and France), rooting for her beloved Lady Tigers basketball team, and –most importantly– her dogs, Sadie, Jasper and Pilot. Lisi touched many lives with her keen intellect, her infectious and eccentric sense of humor, and her unbounded generosity. She couldn't help but make friends with everyone she met.