Professor Peter Machonis
It is with great sadness that we share with the FIU community the passing of our colleague and friend Dr. Peter Machonis, Professor of French & Linguistics, on Wednesday, March 8th, after an 11-year battle with cancer.
Professor Machonis joined the Department of Modern Languages at Florida International University in 1983. Since 2005, he was also the Director of French and Francophone Studies. Professor Machonis has published three academic books, including two on the history and evolution of the French language, written in highly readable French that made them favorites in French programs across the U.S. He has published more than fifty journal articles and book chapters on historical linguistics as well as French language variations in Belgium, Switzerland, and Québec, experiential learning in higher education, and Lexicon-Grammar. He has delivered over ninety academic lectures at international conferences. Professor Machonis earned his B.A. in French from University of Notre Dame in 1974, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in French from Pennsylvania State University in 1976 and 1982, respectively.
Professor Machonis loved teaching, and he loved his students. His pedagogical engagement, mentorship, and brilliance were most evidenced in his experiential learning work and city-as-text approach where he took advantage of the unique situation of FIU in multilingual South Florida. He invited his students to explore Francophone- and Creole-speaking areas of Miami and Fort Lauderdale and reflect on these overall linguistic and cultural experiences. This invaluable hands-on and community-based approach that he guided his students through also characterized Dr. Machonis’ teaching on the Florida Everglades, a two-semester interdisciplinary course that he offered with Devon Graham through the Honors College. His students cherished those critical learning experiences. Characterizations such as brilliant, dynamic, encouraging, and passionate regularly appear in their evaluations of his teaching. In his forty years at FIU, Professor Machonis touched the lives of thousands of students in many diverse classes, ranging from French language and culture, through French and English linguistics, to his seminar on the Everglades as he taught in three different areas: French for the Department of Modern Languages, the Linguistics Program, and the Honors College.
In addition, Professor Machonis was a very active member of the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) and a regular judge at the annual AATF Florida state conventions. Internationally, he was deeply involved with natural language processing, and helped to develop and refine the Nooj linguistic software tool together with colleagues across Europe, Asia, and Latin America. He was a member of the National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) from 2004 to 2022, and directed or planned faculty and student seminars focused on experiential learning in Miami & the Everglades, Las Vegas & Death Valley, the Peruvian Amazon, Albuquerque, and numerous other locations. Dr. María Gómez remembers “his incisiveness, the way he nurtured his curiosities and diversified his experiences. He was the epitome of ‘the Renaissance man.’”
Professor Machonis was also a measured and impactful voice in the Department of Modern Languages whose presence will be greatly missed. Dr. Pascale Bécel, Chair of Modern Languages, remembers him as “an ideal and thoughtful colleague with a great sense of humor. He was passionate about his research and his teaching, an inspiring professor to his students.” Dr. María Antonieta García recalls “his spirit of collegiality and his rigorous and fair mind heightened by his surprising humorous remarks.” We are deeply saddened by his passing.
Professor Machonis is survived by his partner, Devon Graham, his sister Anne Machonis, and brothers Philip and Danny Machonis. A memorial service will be held on Friday March 31 at 2:00 p.m., at St. Agatha’s Catholic Church, at 1111 SW 107th Ave, Miami, FL 33174.
In lieu of flowers, FIU colleagues and friends are invited to make a donation either to The First Generation Scholarship Program at https://scholarships.fiu.edu/contact/scholarship-donors/index.html or to Project Amazonas at firstname.lastname@example.org (supporting conservation, education and medical service work in the Peruvian Amazon). Checks can also be sent to:
701 E Commercial Blvd, #200
Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33334