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In Memoriam – Leslie MacCoull

Dr. Leslie S. B. MacCoull

Saturday’s concert, held at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral on October 17, is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Leslie MacCoull.

Dr. Leslie S. B. MacCoull, papyrologist, Byzantinist, and historian, whose life was cut short, at her home in Tempe, Arizona, on August 26 at age 70, had a wide variety of cultural interests, ranging from early and classical music (she was an accomplished soprano; her idol was Maria Callas). This performance is dedicated to her memory and in her honor.

MacCoull was born in New London, CT, August 7, 1945. She received her A.B. in Classics from Vassar College in 1965, summa cum laude, as class salutatorian. She received an M.A. in Classics in 1966 from Yale University and a Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America in Semitics in 1973. Her dissertation was on Coptic papyri in the Freer Gallery of Art. She was a gifted linguist, with a command of both ancient and modern languages.

MacCoull moved to Cairo, Egypt. She was a fellow at the American Research Center in Egypt and then, from 1978 until 1984, director of studies and librarian at the Society for Coptic Archaeology and editor of its journal. In 1984 she returned to Washington, D.C. MacCoull continued her research with fellowships from Dumbarton Oaks and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For the past twenty years she was an Academic Associate and Editor for the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, using her command of languages on a wide variety of topics.

Her scholarly output amounted to more than 300 books, articles, and reviews. She is no doubt most famous for her work in bringing back to prominence the archive of Dioscorus, the landowning notary of the Egyptian village of Aphrodito, especially its forgotten Coptic components. Her book, Dioscorus of Aphrodito (1988) was revolutionary for its day. She contributed a cluster of noteworthy studies on the Alexandrian philosopher and theologian John Philoponus. Nearly fifty of her best-known articles, are collected in Coptic Perspectives on Late Antiquity (1993) and Documenting Christianity in Egypt, Sixth to Fourteenth Centuries (2011). Her many editions of Coptic documentary texts and her enthusiastic articles about the wider significance of this material provided inspiration to new generations of scholars and contributed to the growth of Coptic papyrology in the past few decades. It was her abiding conviction that Egypt was an integral component of the Late Antique Classical world, and its Coptic culture an organic offshoot of Egyptian Hellenism. Her reviews are noteworthy for their perspicacity, generosity, and collegial good cheer. She was a true embodiment of the amicitia papyrologorum.

Dr. Leslie MacCoull; allusions to these interests are sprinkled through her elegant prose. Her friends treasured the witty communications they received from her. She was a generous and inspirational mentor to many younger scholars, She was many people’s most unforgettable character.

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