Elisabeth "Lisi" Oliver
Elisabeth (Lisi) Oliver, professor of English at Louisiana State University, died Sunday of injuries sustained in a bicycling accident. Lisi will always remembered for her dedication to teaching and learning. Her goal at LSU, she once said, was to make "a large university feel like a small and dynamic learning community." Born in Frankfurt, Germany, in 1951, Lisi attended Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, before entering the world of opera, working for several years as an assistant to Sara Caldwell at the Opera Company of Boston. Seeking new and different professional challenges, she entered Harvard University where she received her PhD in Linguistics in 1995. A year later, she joined the faculty of the LSU English department, concentrating on early medieval and comparative law but serving, as she put it, "as a type of utility infielder," teaching classes ranging from historical linguistics to Pidgins and Creoles to Arthurian literature. She authored several books on early English law and was recognized by her peers as a leader in her field. Her career at LSU was distinguished by her extraordinary energy and included numerous teaching awards as well as, most recently, the university's prestigious Distinguished Research Master award. But important as it was, academics was only part of Lisi's life, which also revolved around music (ukulele, mandolin, and singing), bicycling (in Louisiana and France), rooting for her beloved Lady Tigers basketball team, and – most important – her dogs, Jasper and Pilot. Lisi touched many lives with her keen intellect, her infectious and eccentric sense of humor, and her unbounded generosity. She couldn't help but make friends with everyone she met. She is survived by her brothers, Gus, Peter, and Bim and by her niece, Lily, and her nephew, Matthew.
Published by The Advocate from Jun. 9 to Jun. 11, 2015.
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46 Entries
Hard to believe that six years have passed since Lisi was so tragically and pointlessly killed by a careless driver. Well do I remember how I learned the awful news: Our family was driving back from a beach vacation in Florida, and my son-in-law saw the news in a Facebook post. A few days later, I wrote here that I had never known anyone else like Lisi, and that she would be dreadfully missed. Both statements seem even truer today.
CARL FREEDMAN
Coworker
June 3, 2021
Dear Lisi, I've missed singing beside you in BRSC, reading over your shoulder when you were checking for errors in your writing, learning about medieval England. You are missed.
Mary L McConnell
Friend
June 3, 2021
I met Lisi while we were both working for Sarah Caldwell at the Opera Company of Boston. It was an artistically rich but chaotic working environment, but Lisi was always a voice of reason, perspective and good humor. I still have a picture of her hanging on my office wall, in the poster from a photographic essay on Boston's Working Women that we were both part of back then. I lost touch with Lisi after OCB closed, but it was comforting to "see" her in my office every day. I'm very glad to know that she had a wonderful life in Baton Rouge and very sad to hear that it has ended.
Laura
June 26, 2015
I took a dreaded grammar class over ten years ago that wound up being taught by Dr. Oliver - what a stroke of luck! It turned out to be one of the best classes I took in my time at LSU, and I still tell people about things I learned in it to this day. Dr. Oliver was a fascinating and sweet person, and I hated to hear of her passing.
Erica Gauthier
June 24, 2015
I met Lisi only a few times when I was visiting a mutual friend in Baton Rouge, but her sharp intellect, effervescent personality, quick wit, and hilarious ability as a mimic and raconteuse were always a delight. She was so alive in every respect, her tragic death is hard to accept and tremendously saddening. Many centuries ago, for a tombstone placed as "an everlasting sign of deathless remembrance," Seikilos composed a short epitaph that might almost have been inspired by Lisi: "As long as you live, shine / Grieve you not at all / Life is of brief duration / Time demands its end." From even my limited time with her, I am positive that, like Seikilos's beloved, Lisi will live on, undimmed, in the memories of everyone who ever had the privilege of knowing her. I send my deepest sympathy and condolence to all her friends in Baton Rouge.
Thomas J. Mathiesen
June 13, 2015
Lisi had the wonderful talent of knowing how to connect people, to create friends: when newcomers to Baton Rouge met Lisi, they soon knew half the town. Now that she has left us so unexpectedly, it is no small consolation to know that she is reunited with her best of friends, Sadie.
Andreas Giger
June 12, 2015
We will always love you, Lisi. I hope you are watching over us as you listen to each and every story we tell of you. A friend, a dog lover and a humble scholar. I will miss your laugh and your amazing stories. We gave the dogs a treat or two, as we always did. Your family is amazing. You will forever be in our hearts and we can never forget what you have taught us. Life is meant to be fun and you got it right.
Kristen Young
June 12, 2015
I was fortunate enough to tag along with my husband and Lisi on their recent research trip to London. I found purpose and no small challenge in souvenir shopping for Lisi while they worked on manuscripts. Who else would send you searching for a souvenir dog collar? I can't believe she is gone.
Aurora
June 11, 2015
Lisi was so kind to and interested in everyone, it seems. The last time I saw her she was in line one ahead of me at the CCs drive in window when she hopped out to give the dog biscuits provided there to her dogs, with an encouraging pat on the head for them and a wave to me. She always made me smile. I will miss her.
Anna Priddy
June 11, 2015
Because Lisi was such an exuberant, unconventional and outstanding person, I think she bypassed human heaven and has gone straight to dog heaven. Now she can play all day with her darling Sadie and my darling Clem.
Evanna Gleason
June 11, 2015
Lisi and I met while working for the Atlanta Opera, and she became part of our family, playing charades, skating, going for walks, discussing her work and basketball, sharing meals, and laughing, always laughing, every time she came to town.
Carrie Stockard
June 11, 2015
Lisi befriended me as we were both new Alto IIs in the Baton Rouge Symphony Choir a few years ago. She was such a friendly, generous, interesting person. I am deeply saddened by her passing, our Alto section just won't be the same without her!
Donna Alleman
June 10, 2015
Such a kind-hearted, down to earth person. Loved your laugh and our talks. My condolences to your family.
Rhonda Amis
June 10, 2015
Dr. O, you were such an amazing person and helped and encouraged me to achieve my goals. Your humor and stories endeared you to everyone who had the pleasure of knowing you. I feel sorry for all those to come who won't have the benefit of your presence.
Stacey Ayo
June 10, 2015
I saw Lisi every May at the Kalamazoo Medieval Congress. She was a generous colleague and mentor and a very warm and funny person. I will miss her.
Nicole Guenther Discenza
June 10, 2015
Incredibly sad news. Her memorable papers on Old English law at Kalamazoo and in Kent, her boundless enthusiasm and interests, and the promise of so much more fine work to come in the harvest of a productive retirement that seemed almost unimaginably far in the future--swa hio na waere.
Mary
June 10, 2015
Dr. Lisi Oliver was a kind soul with a welcoming inclusivity that was unaffected by her amazing accomplishments and attainments. In a world where this is a rarity, she shone brightly.
Angela Smith
June 10, 2015
Lisi was the model academic: friendly, helpful, a serious and original scholar, down to earth, humane, and caring for other people and animals. I am so sorry to have lost her as a Louisiana fellow teacher and friend.
Jennifer Vaught
June 10, 2015
I worked for Lisi, cleaning her house for the 12 years. She was such a great lady, she hired me on September 7, 2003 and from that moment on we just clicked. She was such an asset to my business. If anyone ever ask if she knew someone that was cleaning houses she always told everyone you need to call Merri. And sometimes she was a little to much for my business but that was Lisi. Lisi was a very humble person she lived with just the basic necessities in life. I recall her one trip to France and she had one of her grad students stay at her house to take care of the dogs and he was very upset at the fact that Lisi didn't own a microwave, he said to me one day that I was there "who in this world doesn't own a microwave? Do you know how long it takes to boil water with out a microwave? " I just laughed and said that Lisi feels as though she didn't need one. We had a lot of fun together and many,many laughs. Then Lisi met my husband. And my husband likes to make light of every situation and he would joke with Lisi when he was building her Chateau about different things he was gonna do and he was joking all the way and Lisi would call me and ask me if he really meant what he said and I told please don't believe him, he is only joking. Then she would laugh that wonderful infectious laugh she had and it would all be ok. I sure am gonna miss her. But the best part of all is the many,many wonderful and fun times we had. Lots and lots of memories. and she loved her animals more than anyone. She liked my husband because Jasper was getting to hard for her to walk so my husband would go and walk her dogs everyday that he was there and a lot of days he wasn;t working there, because he knew it made Lisi happy and he loved her dogs too.
Merri Young
June 10, 2015
Laura Bourg
June 10, 2015
Like most I am at a loss for words. We had not spent so much time together in the past year, but Lisi was always in my thoughts and prayers. I miss our discussions, our wrangling over issues, and our teasing each other. She was an original one of a kind. I will miss you and will be forever grateful that you past my way. A couple of photos of you and your beloved animals.
Laura Bourg
June 10, 2015
Lisi brought so many gifts to all who crossed her paths. Her exuberant joie de vivre and her very special way of surmounting adversity with cheer are wonderful examples to all of us. Yesterday I was walking along the rue du Faubourg St. Jacques on my way to speak about Robert Desnos at the Société des Gens de Lettres. I passed a store front with an exquisite model of a sloop. The words "l'autre rive" were written on the window. My mind was filled with thoughts of Lisi who is waiting on that other side to greet us.
Adelaide Russo
June 10, 2015
I will always remember with deep gratitude Lisi's words of praise, encouragement, and infectious enthusiasm that gave me the courage to hop into a plane and face MLA interviews at the eleventh hour. It was 1998, and I had just graduated. I was nervous, diffident, and felt unprepared. The world is a poorer place today without her.
Sumita Roy
June 9, 2015
Lisi was a participant in our Parrot Head Bike Ride for the Environment for many years and we looked forward to seeing her every year. Our ride will never be the same without her!!
Charlotte Baronne
Parrot Head Club of Baton Rouge
Charlotte Baronne
June 9, 2015
I still can't process this. Lisi is the reason I stayed in grad school and eventually my PhD. She was there for me when I was ill, when my dissertation went in a completely different direction than the linguistic analysis she trained me in, and she was a point of goodness and light when I was so ill one morning I realized I could die -- she nearly beat down my door at 7am for 5 minutes straight until I dragged myself over to answer it. Why? I can't remember, but what I do remember is her spirit, that moment of human connection, that generosity of spirit, and how much she gave me exactly what I needed that day and every day. Gode spede to my former adviser, my mentor, and my friend. I'm sorry I fell out of touch.
Cara Jones
June 9, 2015
Lisi introduced me to the field of linguistics while I was a graduate student. I always thought of her as someone who got life; she knew what was important. She also got people and knew how to make them see their own strengths and possibilities. And her humor could make any situation better! Rest in peace.
Kristi Melancon
June 9, 2015
Lisi was an inspiration and one of the most memorable and kindest professors I knew at LSU. So many of us she touched with her humor, her dedication, her reassurances, and her generous spirit. She will be so missed.
Margaret Clark
June 9, 2015
Lisi's mentorship and support have shaped every bit of my experience as a faculty member in the English department at LSU. I don't know what it means that she won't be there anymore. I stopped at her office today and just stared for a bit at the big monkey-on-a-bicycle poster and the comic strips and photos of/with the LSU women's basketball team...

Lisi loved life and threw all of her considerable energy into everything she did. I will miss her so, so much.
Sue Weinstein
June 9, 2015
Lisi took her friends and made them family. Her house was a second home. My young son blinked back tears yesterday and asked if we would now be able to see Lisi in our dreams. Yes, son, a thousand, a million times yes. Missing her doesn't begin to describe it.
Anthony Monta
June 9, 2015
As a "non-traditional" PhD student, Lisi believed in me, treated me like a peer, and cheered for me at every step. I'll always cherish her friendship.
Therese Champagne
June 9, 2015
I served with Lisi for two years when I worked at Allen Hall in LSU. I'm sorry the time could not have been longer.
Paul Niemeyer
June 9, 2015
Your kindness, generosity of spirit, and infectious cheerfulness will be sorely missed. Rest in sweet peace, Lisi.
Cynthia Dennis
June 9, 2015
She was an inspiring teacher with an infectious enthusiasm and a brilliant mind. She was also genuinely warm, kind, and funny, and truly cared about her students. I am fortunate to have had her as a mentor. Rest in peace, Dr. Oliver.
Dominic Bordelon
June 9, 2015
I have absolutely no words. Goodbye, dear friend.

Jeff
June 9, 2015
Lisi's energy and love for LSU will live on in our hearts forever. I hope she is curled up with Sadie.
Sheri Thompson
June 9, 2015
Because Lisi had such a lively sense of humor and was so utterly unpretentious, many people may not have realized what a high-powered, world-class scholar she was. I have never known anyone else quite like her, and she will be dreadfully missed.
Carl Freedman
June 9, 2015
Lisi, I will miss your cheerful face at work that popped into my office door and the many scrabble games that provided so much warmth and many laughs. You were a real Mensch.
Barbara Heifferon
June 9, 2015
Lisi was my colleague, friend, and neighbor. I can't think of anyone who lived such a full, rich life. Everyone loved her, and she went out at the top of her game. I am grateful to have known her.
Anna Nardo
June 9, 2015
Denise and I are very sad to hear of Lisi's death. She was our neighbor when we lived in University Gardens. I've attached a photograph of her and myself following Hurricane Gustav, where she generously came over, gas masks in hand, to help us clean out our destroyed and mold-infested home following the storm.

She was just that terrific! And will be missed.
Rick Hannon
June 9, 2015
Lisi joined the Baton Rouge Symphony Chorus two seasons ago and was placed in my alto II section. She was always a funny companion and would always sit next to me, eager to learn to sing better. I came to love her quickly, her love of music and joy in life. I will miss her.

My deepest condolences to all of her family and friends. She will be truly, deeply missed in the BRSC.
Mary McConnell
June 9, 2015
You will be greatly missed. Rest in peace.
Kieu Pham
June 9, 2015
Dr. Oliver was one of the best. I still remember her enthusiasm at an 8 a.m. class. She will be missed.
Amy Montz
June 9, 2015
A guiding light, Lisi's presence will forever remain.
June 9, 2015
Dr. Oliver was one of the most influential people in my life. A brilliant academic and a wonderful woman. I will miss her sorely.
Kimberly Johnson
June 9, 2015
I often think of all of the assistance you provided to me years ago in your linguistics class. You did everything within your power to ensure that your students would achieve success. For that, I thank you. You will be missed.
Chrystal Williams
June 9, 2015
Dr. Oliver was one of a kind and can never be replaced. Her intellect and spirit will be sorely missed.
Lucas Gassen
June 9, 2015
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