Flore Zéphir


Ph.D., Indiana University-Bloomington, 1990
Applied Linguistics, Sociolinguistics, Foreign Language Education, Ethnic and Immigrant Studies, Creole Studies


Dr. Flore Zephir who loyally served our department and the University for over 29 years passed away on Friday, December 15, 2017 at the University of Missouri Hospital where she underwent open-heart surgery. 

An online guest book is available at:  http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Flore-Zephir&lc=9874&pid=187557249&uuid=76ae9c7a-a764-40ed-98ae-96eaa9fd63a9 

The university commemorated the life and work of Flore on Wednesday, December 20, 2017 at 10:00 am at the Reynolds Alumni Center in Columns C. 

Memorial contributions may be made to the Professor Flore Zéphir Memorial Fund at the University of Missouri. This Fund will support research and travel for graduate students in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. Online contributions may be made at:


Professor Zéphir, a native of Haiti, came to the United States in 1975. She attended Hunter College of the City University of New York, where she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and Education in 1980. The following year she went to Indiana University-Bloomington, and earned two Masters of Arts degree in 1983, and a Ph.D. in French Linguistics in 1990.

Professor Zéphir had been teaching at the University of Missouri-Columbia (MU) since 1988 in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. She was a professor of French and coordinator of the Master’s program in foreign language teaching, and a faculty fellow in the Division of Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity.   She served as department chair in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures from fall 2008 to summer 2014, and director of the Afro-Romance Institute from August 2008 to December 2016; she also chaired the Linguistics area program from fall 2004 to summer 2007.  She was the recipient of several awards at MU. In 1995, she received a Kemper award for excellence in teaching; in 2003, an award for excellence in advising; and in 2004, a Faculty-Alumni award.

Professor Zéphir taught French language classes at all levels, as well as courses in foreign language teaching methodologies, French linguistics, bilingualism and multiculturalism, and minority and Creole languages. Her research interests included foreign language education, bilingual education, Creole studies, sociolinguistics, and ethnic and immigrant studies with a particular focus on the Haitian diaspora in the United States. She was a regular presenter at the various foreign language teaching conferences, as well as linguistics meetings.

Given her expertise in the areas of bilingual, multicultural, and foreign language education, as well as immigrant studies, Professor Zéphir was a well sought-after speaker, invited to conduct workshops and give presentations on these topics. For example, in the summer of 2001, she taught a segment on French creoles, as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities' Summer Institute on the African Diaspora held at MU.  More recently, she was invited at the University of Florida-Gainesville (2011), Vanderbilt University (2012), Harvard University (2013), the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology (2014), and Northwestern University (2015).

Her numerous articles and review essays have appeared in the French Review, Foreign Language Annals, Modern Language Journal, Journal of Pidgin and Creole Languages, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Journal of Haitian Studies, Afro-Hispanic Review, PALARA, and Sociology of Religion: A Quarterly Review, among other professional journals. Her first book, Haitian Immigrants in Black America: A Sociological and Sociolinguistic Portrait was published in 1996 by Bergin and Garvey; her second, Trends in Ethnic Identification Among Second-Generation Haitian immigrants in New York City, was released in summer 2001 also by Bergin and Garvey; and her third, The Haitian Americans,was published in August 2004 by Greenwood Press as part of its New Americans series.  She served as book review editor for the Journal of Haitian Studies from August 2003 to May 2013. She is currently working on projects dealing with the transformation of the Haitian diaspora as a result of the January 2010 earthquake.

In addition to receiving scholarly attention, Professor Zéphir’s work on Haitian immigrants in the United States has generated a great deal of interest on the part of the media. For example, in 2002, a reporter from the Washington Post conducted a phone interview with her. Excerpts of that interview appeared in an article, “A Diverse—and Divided—Black Community,” published in the Sunday, February 24, 2002 issue of that paper. Subsequently, she was quoted in an article titled “Black America Transformed: Immigration reshapes a once-monolithic community,” published in the International Herald Tribune in Paris (Monday, February 25, 2002). She has also been featured in the diasporic newspaper, the Haitian Times, which published a review of her book on the second-generation Haitian immigrants (January 1-7, 2003 issue, p.2). Additionally, she appeared on a number of radio programs, including Perspectives Haitiennes, and the Caribbean segment of Voice of America. She also contributed a monthly column to the Boston Haitian Reporter from April 2004 through March 2005.

Professor Zéphir was on research leave during academic year 2014-2015.  At the time of her passing she was teaching full-time, developing new courses, advising graduate students in French linguistics, and serving on important University committees, including the MU Faculty Council on University Policy. 

She was fiercely devoted to her colleague's individual success and to increasing the scholarly visibility of the Romance Languages & Literatures Department.  More importantly, rather than curry favor with those at the top, she routinely went to battle for the Department’s most vulnerable, and when the sorrow passes, if it ever does, it it is this trait, her unshakeable decency and humanity, that will endure.