HANOVER, N.H. (AP) — John Rassias, a Dartmouth College professor who created a unique method to teach languages that was adopted by the Peace Corps, has died. He was 90.
Rassias died Wednesday at his home in Norwich, Vermont, according to a statement from college President Philip Hanlon.
Rassias was a consultant and developer with the Peace Corps in 1966 when he directed a pilot program to teach languages in Africa. The Rassias Method, featuring rapid-fire drills, cultural immersion and a touch of theater, was later adopted by the Peace Corps.
He studied French at the University of Bridgeport and then went to the Universite de Dijon in France as a Fulbright Scholar, earning his Ph.D. From there, he moved to Paris where he studied French drama, a skill that would serve him well when he developed his teaching method, which relied on a dramatic style designed to break down students’ inhibitions.
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He joined Dartmouth in 1965, founded its Language Study Abroad programs and directed the foreign study programs for several years.
At Dartmouth, he founded the Rassias Center for World Languages and Cultures and became one of the founding partners of the Inter-American Partnership for Education, a Clinton Global Initiative.
His daughter, Helene Rassias-Miles, brought the method to Mexico and in the past few years it’s been taught to more than 2,000 English language public school teachers who have instructed hundreds of thousands of Mexican students.
The method was also shared with the People’s Republic of China, Bulgaria, France, Japan, Greece, Turkey and the city of Baltimore school system, according to Dartmouth.
Rassias grew up in Manchester, New Hampshire, and served in the U.S. Marines, piloting an amphibious tank during the Battle of Okinawa.
His wife, Mary Evanstock Rassias, died in 2012. He is survived by three children and nine grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements are pending.