International Arthurian Society-
North American Branch

In Memoriam

Fiona Tolhurst (December 21, 2021)

This message was sent to the membership on December 26, 2021 by our branch president, Joe Sullivan:

"Dear Fellow Arthurians,


It is with profound sadness that I write to you today about the passing of our beloved colleague Fiona Tolhurst.


A longtime member of our branch, Fiona will be remembered by all of us who knew her for her great intelligence, boundless generosity, and infectious smile.


We do not yet know the circumstances of Fiona’s death.


Please keep Fiona and her loved ones in your thoughts at this most difficult time,


Joe Sullivan

President, IAS-NAB"

Photo: Private photo submitted by David F. Johnson, taken in Würzburg, Germany during the IAS Congress, July 2017.

The email was sent by Mark Rieger, Executive Vice President and Provost at Florida Gulf Coast University to their faculty about Fiona's death:

"Dear colleagues:


It is with great sadness that I write to let you know we lost a valuable member of the FGCU family just before the start of winter break. Fiona Tolhurst, Ph.D., professor of English and chair of the Department of Language and Literature, died Tuesday, Dec. 21. A memorial service is being planned at St. Hilary's Episcopal Church in Fort Myers, but details have not been announced at this time.


Being relatively new to campus, I didn’t get to know Fiona, or Fi to her friends, as well as I would have liked. But I have marveled at her accomplishments as her colleagues shared anecdotes. Her loss is a big one for FGCU, Southwest Florida and higher education as a whole.


Fiona joined FGCU in 2014 as an associate professor of English. In little more than a year, she became the program coordinator for the Master of Arts in English. By August 2019, she was chair and was promoted to full professor two years later.


In the last seven years, Fiona played a key role in creating FGCU’s combined bachelor’s-master’s program in English. The accelerated program for advanced students gives them the chance to earn both degrees in as little as five years. Fiona was fluent in German, and she spent a lot of time working with our foreign language program. Her specialization in medieval literature made her a perfect fit for the team that created the medieval and early modern studies minor.


Fiona’s ability to bring people together is one of the themes I see across the many stories I’ve heard since her passing. Her colleagues and students loved her, and she loved them. The word “passionate” doesn’t seem to do her justice. I’m told her academic obsession with medieval works, specifically by women writers, rubbed off on her students as she introduced them to middle English.


Before joining FGCU, Fiona taught English at Alfred University (New York), University of Geneva (Switzerland), and Acadia University (Nova Scotia). She wrote multiple books and was an excellent scholar. That was clear early in her career as she earned her Ph.D. at Princeton University.


Outside of the classroom, you would find her spending time with her husband, Christoph, and their Australian shepherd, Willow. Fiona and Willow ran together. We’re not talking short distances; it was more like seven to 13 miles at a time. Singing was also one of her great joys, evident each time she stepped onstage with her church choir or with Choral Artistry (formerly Symphonic Chorale).


We will miss Fiona. For those of you who knew her, I encourage you to take a moment and remember the good times and her impact at FGCU. I hope that helps you find some peace in your grief.





Mark Rieger

Executive Vice President and Provost

Florida Gulf Coast University"

Link to the Celebration of Dr. Fiona Tolhurst's Life on January 14. 2022 by the Department of Languages & Literatures at Florida Gulf Coas University.

If you wish to leave a memory about Fiona or express your condolences to her family , you may do so at the memorial page that the funeral home has set up.

Barbara Nelson Sargent-Bauer (1928-2020): obituary written by Alison Stones & published in JIAS (2020): 8.1., 155-156.

Dhira Mahoney (1938-2019): obituary written by Anita Obermeier and Georgiana Donavin & published in JIAS (2020): 8.1., 150-151.

Sue Ellen Holbrook (1941-2017): obituary written by Michael W. Twomey, Bonnie Wheeler and Kevin S. Whetter & published in JIAS (2019): 7.1., 170-172.

Carleton W. Carrol (1939-2016): obituary written by Michelle Szkilnik & published in JIAS (2016): 4.1., 174-176. 

Jeremy duQuesnay Adams (1933-2016): obituary written by Christopher A. Snyder & published in Arthuriana (2016): 26:3., 144-145. 

Muriel Whitacker (1923-2016): obituary written by Raymond H. Thompson & published in JIAS (2020): 8.1., 157-158. 

Michael Salda (1958-2015): obituary written by Kevin J. Harty & published in Arthuriana (2018): 28:1., 69-70. 

To access obituaries published in JIAS, please use your member credentials to access those issues. 

PDF files of obituaries published in Arthuriana were graciously provided  by Dorrie Armstrong (editor). 

Photo credits: The Battle Between Arnault de Lorraine and His Wife Lydia (Excerpt), written 1463 - 1465; illuminated 1467 - 1472, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Ms. Ludwig XIII 6, leaf 11. Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.

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Site last updated: May 2020

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