Elinor Despalatovic, professor emeritus of history, who was with Connecticut College from 1965 to 2001, passed away March 13, 2020.
She received a bachelor’s degree from Barnard College and a master’s of arts and doctor in philosophy from Columbia University. She taught Russian History, Soviet History, Eastern Europe Between the Great Powers, 1815-1990, History of the Balkans since 1453, and various seminars on peasant, Soviet and Balkan history.
At the time of her retirement, she worked on a monograph about peasant life in Croatia-Slavonia before World War I. Much of her material came from a rich and relatively unknown collection of village studies made at that time for the Ethnographic Department of the Yugoslav Academy. The village studies were based upon a long questionnaire drawn up by Ante Radic that examines material culture, customs and beliefs. She was also working on the history of the Croatian Peasant Party, the most important political party in Croatia in the interwar period. She was particularly interested in the economic and literary organizations affiliated with the Croatian Peasant Party (Gospodarska sloga, Seljacka sloga) and the lives of its founders and leaders: Ante and Stjepan Radic and Vlatko Macek. Professor Despalatovic published numerous articles on Peasant Party topics.
She is survived by her husband Marijian J. Despalatovic, Senior Lecturer Emeritus in Slavic Studies at Connecticut College, and two daughters, Mirna D. Bowden ’90 of Whitefish, Montana, and Pavica D. Kneedler ’92 of Ipswich, Massachusetts.
She served as a trustee of Connecticut College from 1982-1992 and in 1995 was awarded the College Medal, the highest honor the college bestows. In 2002, the Lear-Conant Symposium was established with a gift from one of her dearest friends, the historian and biographer Linda J. Lear ’62. “I first knew her as the sophomore dean,” Lear said, “and while she could be tough as nails when need be, her laugh was infectious, her voice strong and compelling, and as a friend there was no one finer or more trustworthy.” Lear went on: “She had an extraordinary mind, was an adventurous, challenging leader and a woman of great compassion and faithfulness.” The symposium, a biennial conference in the Goodwin-Niering Center for the Environment, carries on the legacy of this unrivaled scholar-activist.
She is survived by her wife Camille and her stepchildren Tara, Miya and Ethan.