In Memoriam: Charles Gribble

Charles Edward Gribble, professor emeritus, Slavic and East European languages and literatures, passed away on June 3, 2016 after a long illness. Charles “Chuck” had a distinguished career of teaching, research and service in the field, which spanned nearly 60 years, 35 of which were spent at The Ohio State University. He is survived by his wife, Lyubomira Parpulova Gribble, and his daughter, Elizabeth Rayna Gribble.

Charles grew up in Lansing, Michigan, where his father was an executive with the General Motors Corporation. He entered University of Michigan with the intention of specializing in physics, but soon he became captivated by the sound, structure and history of foreign languages—a passion that would endure to the end of his life. Under the guidance of the distinguished Slavist and Byzantinist Ihor Ševčenko, he received his BA with high distinction in Slavic Languages in 1957.

In 1958, Charles entered the graduate program in Slavic Languages and Literatures at Harvard University, where he studied under the eminent Slavic linguist and Structuralist Roman Jakobson. He developed significant expertise not only in Russian but also in Old Church Slavonic, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, Czech, Polish and Lithuanian. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on an early twelfth-century East Slavic manuscript, “Linguistic Problems of the Vygoleksinskij Sbornik” (defended in 1967), under the supervision of Horace G. Lunt.

While still a doctoral candidate, Charles worked as assistant professor of Russian at Brandeis University (1962–1968). Subsequently, he served as assistant and, later, associate professor at Indiana University (1968–1975). During that time, he served as the resident director of several study-abroad programs both in the U.S.S.R. and in Yugoslavia.

In 1975, Charles began his 35-year service to Ohio State’s Department of Slavic and East European Languages and Literatures, where he was promoted to the rank of full professor in 1989. A versatile instructor, he taught the Structure and History of Russian, Old Church Slavonic, South Slavic Linguistics, South Slavic Cultures, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, Czech and other subjects. He directed eight doctoral dissertations and nine MA theses and served on innumerable graduate committees. In addition, Charles served as chair of the department from 1990 to 1996, and later as graduate studies chair from 2001 to 2008. He was also a longtime member of the advisory council of the Resource Center for Medieval Slavic Studies. In recognition of his dedicated teaching, scholarship, and service, the university honored him with the Harlan Hatcher Arts and Sciences Distinguished Faculty Award in 2007.

On his 70th birthday and in recognition of his impact in scholarship, Charles was presented with a festschrift, Studia Caroliensia: Papers in Linguistics and Folklore in Honor of Charles E. Gribble (edited by Robert A. Rothstein, Ernest Scatton and Charles E. Townsend, 2006).

Charles also left a profound and enduring mark on the field of Slavic studies through his leadership of Slavica Publishers, which he founded in 1966. During his 30-year editorship (1966–1997), Slavica grew to become the largest venue for Slavistic publications in the Western Hemisphere. As the publisher, Charles personally edited some 250 books and more than 60 issues of scholarly journals. His excellence as an editor was one of the major reasons why the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages, the major professional organization in our field, presented him with a Special Commendation in 1986 and the association’s Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Profession in 1992.

In the course of his long career, Charles touched innumerable lives with his kindness, compassion, generosity and humor. He loved teaching and was a selfless mentor and advisor to his students, who never found him too busy to help, and who never left his office without a kind word and a handful of chocolate. When his physical sufferings forced him to retire, above all else he missed his interactions with students. He was an inestimable blessing to our program and to our field, and he will be sorely missed.

May His Memory Be Eternal.

Written by Daniel E. Collins and reprinted from the Cyrillic Manuscript Heritage Newsletter, Volume 38, July 2016.