William "Bill" Savage, Jr., a longtime professor of history at the University of New Orleans, died July 12 at the age of 89. His colleagues remember him as a stalwart member of the first generation of scholars to come to the University following its founding in 1958.
Savage completed his doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1962. His thesis on Jean Jaurès chronicled the history of French socialism during the inter-war period. During his research, he spent a great deal of time in Paris, where he served as a fellow of the French government.
S. William Halperin, the University of Chicago professor who served as Savage’s thesis advisor, lauded the “outstanding caliber” of Bill's dissertation work and described the Oklahoma native as “one of the four or five best students” he had trained in his long career at the university.
Joining the faculty of what was then Louisiana State University at New Orleans in 1964, Savage was promoted to full professor in 1978. Throughout his career, he was a devoted teacher of 19th and 20th century European and French history.
Günter Bischof, research professor and the Marshall Plan Professor of History at the UNO, remembers being a student in Savage’s graduate seminar on World War I in 1980. Bischof describes his former professor as an "outstanding and engaging instructor with a keen sense of the enormous sacrifices European societies made in the bloody four-year contest."
Beyond the classroom, Savage won wide recognition as a vital member of the university community, serving as a key voice on the University Senate and as assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts, as well as faculty adviser to the paralegal program. He was an adviser to the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, and maintained strong relationships with many in the UNO community even after his retirement. Savage was proud to have served, at then-Chancellor Homer Hitt's request, as a central figure in early efforts to organize an athletics program on the UNO campus, and was a champion of efforts to establish UNO’s educational outreach efforts through what was then called Metropolitan College.
A longtime union organizer and supporter, he served for several years as the president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, the state body grouping all teachers’ unions in Louisiana.
Particularly important to Savage was his continued participation in the UNO-Innsbruck International Summer School program in Innsbruck, Austria. Savage was a strong and early advocate of the program, serving as faculty director multiple times from the 1980s forward. The connections he and his family maintained with the city and with faculty, staff and Austrian students—both in New Orleans and abroad—continued up until his passing.
Savage "officially" retired from the UNO in December of 1994 after 30 years at the University, his personnel record shows. But he didn't stay away long. By the fall of 1995, he was back on campus serving in various appointments until 2009. Following his retirement, Savage was named professor emeritus.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Doris, and is survived by his daughter, Kate Savage, her family, and his son, Matt Savage. Though plans have not been finalized, Savage’s family is organizing a commemoration of his life in mid-September.
- James Mokhiber, Ph.D.