After a three-year fight with melanoma, humanities professor María Rosa Menocal passed away Monday afternoon.
A Sterling Professor of the Humanities since 2005, Menocal served as director of the Whitney Humanities Center from 2001 to 2012. She told the Yale Bulletin in 2005 that the WHC is “the University’s center for conversations across the arts and humanities,” and spearheaded a period of expansion at the Center, where she appointed 285 fellows from several different academic fields and added new programs such as “Films at the Whitney.”
“María Rosa Menocal was among the most brilliant, creative and original of Yale’s extraordinary scholars in the humanities,” University President Richard Levin told the News on Monday. “Her passions inspired and energized her students and colleagues and shaped a vibrant community at the Whitney Humanities Center.”
Levin said Menocal was interested in every medium of “human expression,” ranging from politics to cooking and professional hockey. Much of her research revolved around the cultural and religious environment of medieval Spain, and she authored several books on the time period, according to Yale News. Her 2002 book, “The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain,” has been translated into several languages and is slated to be adapted into a television documentary.
Menocal served as director of graduate studies and chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese before stepping into her role at the Whitney.
Born in Havana, Cuba, Menocal attended the University of Pennsylvania, earning a B.A. in Romance languages, an M.A. in French and a Ph.D in Romance philology. After teaching at Penn and at Bryn Mawr College, Menocal joined the Yale faculty in 1986, teaching Spanish and Portuguese. She became a tenured professor in 1992.
Menocal is survived by her parents, three siblings, husband, ex-husband, two children and one grandchild.