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The untimely death on August 30, 2004, at the age of 60, of Gerald Michael Browne, professor emeritus of the classics at the University of Illinois, shocked and saddened his friends, students, and colleagues. Michael was a beloved teacher and a scholar whose work touched the lives of countless students over the course of his career. He earned the Bachelors and Masters Degrees from the University of Michigan and took the Ph.D. there in 1968, studying under Herbert Youtie, of whom he said, "He taught me what philological scholarship is and how one should pursue it." He taught at Harvard from that year until 1973, and after an intervening year at the Center for Hellenic Studies he went to the University of Illinois, earning tenure the following year. In Urbana he directed six doctoral dissertations in classics.
Michael described his research interests as the critical editing and textual criticism of texts written in Arabic, Armenian, Blemmyan, Coptic, Ethiopic, Georgian, Greek, Latin, Lydian, Old Nubian, Sanskrit, and Syriac, but he was internationally renowned mainly for his careful editing of difficult texts in Greek, Coptic, and Old Nubian. His 200 articles and monographs include collections of documentary and Coptic texts from Michigan, the Laurentian Library, and the Nag Hammadi collection, a dictionary of old Nubian, and a grammar of the same language. Michael was one of the first editors of BASP, and he established and directed the American Center of the International Photographic Archive of Papyri at the University of Illinois. He was a founding editor, in 1988, of the Journal of Coptic Studies, which he edited with Stephen Emmel until 2001.
At Illinois he found a congenial home, as his own valedictory at his retirement in 2003 makes clear: "My 30 years in Urbana have been a wonderful time, filled with enough uninterrupted hours to pursue a philological career with some degree of success and with a great deal of personal satisfaction. Not having an orthodox belief system to support me, and refusing to succumb to-the-make-it-up-as-you-go-along spirituality of this our darkling and narcissistic age, I have ever sought solace in the secular salvation of textual criticism, remembering-with Erasmus-that unless we purify our texts we can never hope to purify ourselves."
He is sorely missed by his colleagues.
[Adapted from obituaries prepared by the Department of Classics, University of Illinois, and by Stephen BAY and Maryline PARCA.]