Mary Collier

Mary Collier

Professor and Chair of French
Phone: (805) 565-7175
Office Location: Reynolds Hall 202

Office Hours
Fall 2017
MW 4:15 - 5:15
Tu 2:30 - 3:30
and by appointment


Popular French Professor is Knighted

David Martinon, Mary Collier and Gayle Beebe at Birnham Wood










Mary Blackwood Collier, who has taught French at Westmont for 31 years, was knighted by David Martinon, consul general of France, Los Angeles, as a Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques on Aug. 26 at a private reception at Birnam Wood, attended by about 100 colleagues and friends.

“Your love for France is absolute, and I want, in the name of our country, to thank you for that long-lasting passion,” Martinon said. He quoted French novelist and filmmaker Marcel Pagnol, who described the honor as “the highest distinction the French Republic can give because it celebrates not only knowledge but the art of spreading it amongst students.”

Collier, a Santa Barbara native, completed bachelor’s and master’s degrees in French at UC Santa Barbara. She earned a doctorate with highest honors in French literature from the Université de Paris, Sorbonne. Since 1976 she has served on the faculty of the Music Academy of the West as French diction coach in the vocal department, now under the direction of Marilyn Horne. She was a student herself in two departments at the academy, piano under Emmanuel Bay and voice under Martial Singher.

“It is not that often that a foreigner is distinguished in that order,” Martinon said, “but for your tremendous passion for France and for your unstoppable action for promoting French culture, Madame Collier, I am very proud to give you this insignia today.

Martinon affixed the purple ribbon with the medal to Collier’s collar as the crowd applauded. “I am thrilled and grateful for this distinction that your nation has conferred upon me and I am very proud to represent the French language and culture,” she said.

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As I reflect on my years as a member of the faculty of Westmont College I am full of joy at God’s faithfulness and overwhelmed by His graciousness to me. I am proud and grateful to be a part of this academic and faith community and delighted to live in Santa Barbara, where I was born and where, other than the years our family lived in New Hampshire and in Italy, I grew up. It is a particular joy to live here with my English cocker spaniel, Mademoiselle Toutou (”doggie” in French!), in the house my parents designed and built.

I have been redesigning the garden in recent years to be less labor intensive than the way my mother had it, and Toutou and I work and play in it as much as we possibly can. I am very glad indeed to serve on the Altar Guild and as lector, intercessor, and lay eucharistic minister at All Saints-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church. During the summer session of the Music Academy of the West I enjoy teaching French diction for singers in the Vocal Department.

Since 1973, I have been living part of each year in Paris, France, where I belong to Saint Michael’s Church. Paris has played a pivotal rôle in my development, both spiritual and intellectual, from my student days throughout my adult life. I do not remember how my fascination for France and things French began. It seemed to me from childhood that whatever was elegant and intelligent was French! I am very blessed to have complete lives both in France surrounded by loving and lovable French friends as well as in Santa Barbara within the context of beloved family and cherished friends.


Ph. D., with highest honors, Université de Paris-Sorbonne, Paris IV, 1990
Dissertation Director: Monsieur le Professeur Pierre Brunel
Dissertation Title: La Carmen essentielle et sa réalisation au spectacle
Master of Arts, French literature, Community College Credential, University of California, Santa Barbara, (comprehensive-examinations option), 1975
Bachelor of Arts, French, University of California, Santa Barbara, 1966
Diploma, Laguna Blanca School, Santa Barbara, honors at graduation: French, World Literature, maximum academic scholarship, 1962

Teaching Experience

1981 to present: Westmont College, Professor of French

1976-84, and 1996 to present: Music Academy of the West, Vocal Department Coach: French diction for singers


“Music Academy memories,” Santa Barbara Magazine, vol. 23, no. 3 (Summer, 1997): pp. 44-49.

“Carmen: Femme fatale or Modern Myth? Mérimée’s and Bizet’s Image of Rebellion.” West Virginia University Philological Papers (Special Issue Devoted to Literature and the Other Arts), vol. 41, 1995 (1996): pp. 30-37.

La Carmen essentielle et sa réalisation au spectacle. 195 pages. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1994.

“Christian Readings for the Classroom,” Mary Collier and Jane Koustas, NACFLA Proceedings Journal (Papers presented at the April meeting of the North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty) 1 (July 1991): pp. 112-131.

Papers Read at Professional Conferences

March, 2006 Presenter, “Letters from Paris, 1970-2000: A Memoir of a Stranger Come Home”
Conference on Christianity and Literature
Pepperdine University, Malibu, California

April, 2001 Presenter and Panelist, The Gift of the Stranger: Faith Hospitality, and Foreign Language Learning (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2000) by David I. Smith and Barbara Carvill
North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty (NACFLA)
Wheaton College, Wheaton, Illinois

April, 2000 Presenter, “French for English Majors: A New Course Design”
Presider, Focus on Eugene Ionesco
North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty (NACFLA)
Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, California

April, 1997 “Francesco Rosi’s Carmen: Free Agent or Society’s Victim?”
North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty (NACFLA)
Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Michigan

July, 1996 “Le Personnage de Carmen créé par Prosper Mérimée et Georges Bizet”
Summer Institute of French Language and Culture
University of California, Santa Barbara

April, 1995 “Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen: How Does One Rebel in the Tragic Universe?”
North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty
Lee College, Cleveland, Tennessee

October 1994 “Carmen: Femme fatale or Modern Myth? Mérimée’s and Bizet’s Image of Rebellion”
The American Conference on Romanticism
Pennsylvania State University, State College, Pennsylvania

April 1994 “Carlos Saura’s Carmen: Repatriated or Still French?”
North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty
Palm Beach Atlantic College, Palm Beach, Florida

April 1993 “Carmen Jones: Rebel Without a Cause?”
North American Association of Christian Foreign Language and Literature Faculty
Taylor University, Upland, Indiana

Awards and Honors

March, 1995 Faculty Development Grant: To translate Deux pianos, une vocation by Janine Reding Piette (Bruxelles: La Longue Vue, 1992)
Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California

February 1993 Induction to The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi
Westmont College Chapter, Santa Barbara, California

May 1992 Outstanding Teacher of the Year, Humanities Division
Westmont College, Santa Barbara, California

March 1992 Faculty Development Grant: To prepare manuscript from dissertation.
Hewlett Foundation with matching funds from Westmont College

Research Interests

Because both my parents were musicians and, as a matter of fact, my first formation was in music, my academic work in literature has always had a musical component. Recently, however, I have been looking into the French influence on my hometown. Santa Barbara’s Spanish and Mexican heritage is well documented, but there has been historically French influence in its settling and civilizing.

Courses taught

Beginning French and Intermediate French: In these elementary and intermediate language courses I emphasize a conversational method for teaching the structure of language. The forms of the language are of first importance to my teaching, because precision and clarity is intrinsic to expression in French and to conversation with native French speakers, who place high value on their language’s structural beauty and grace. Indeed, for the French, meaning is contained in and revelatory of form. To that end, therefore, we give considerable attention to verb conjugations and sentence structure, the pure forms of the language. Students have opportunities for developing their abilities in French, both spoken and written, in the classroom with me, in drill sessions with their peers, and in individual work in the language lab.

Survey of French Literature: In this two-semester sequence we become acquainted with great works of French literature from the eighth century to the present day. We use an anthology of works so that we may taste and see the breadth of delights available to us in the French canon. Students read, discuss, and write papers and exams in French, developing their skills in the language and in literary analysis.

17th Century French Theatre: The 17th century was the golden age of French culture, as expressed in literature. This course explores the drama of three great French playwrights: Corneille, Racine, and Molière.

19th Century French Novel: In this period course we examine the four great literary movements of the 19th century in France: romanticism, romantic realism, realism, and naturalism. These movements are expressed in the works of such authors as Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and Emile Zola.

20th Century French Literature: We read a variety of different genres of literature in this course on 20th century French writing. By spending time with drama, poetry, novels, essays, and screenplays we are able to explore the complexities of contemporary French thought, philosophy, and culture.