Sunday, February 22, 1998

University mourns popular Russian professor

By GARY JAHRIG/of the Missoulian

Philip Maloney dies after 23-year career at UM
The sudden death of popular Russian professor Philip Maloney will leave a void on the University of Montana campus that will be hard to fill, colleagues said Friday.

''Phil was a really special guy,'' said Gerald Fetz, chairman of UM's foreign languages and literature department. ''Not only in the department, but on campus as a whole, there's going to be a big, big gap.''

Maloney, 57, died Thursday evening after he suffered a heart attack at the Press Box Casino Restaurant and Sports Bar where he was meeting with a group of students. Witnesses told the UM student newspaper that Maloney was cracking jokes in Russian about the Irish bobsled team when he fell over. Efforts to revive him were unsuccessful.

''He was with an informal Russian discussion group,'' Fetz said. ''He was talking Russian when he keeled over.''

UM President George Dennison said he was deeply saddened by the news of Maloney's death.

''I think it's a real loss,'' Dennison said. ''He was one of the great people in the world.''

In his 23 years at UM, Maloney was instrumental in developing the school's Russian studies program.

''He was a mainstay of the earlier Soviet-area program and of the current Russian program,'' Fetz said.

Fetz said Maloney was extremely popular with students.

''Many former students would maintain contact with him,'' he said. ''His house was always an open spot for students. They would go watch old Russian movies or just talk Russian.''

James Flightner, the dean of UM's College of Arts and Sciences, said Maloney would go to great lengths to help students.

''I think he was probably everybody's friend,'' Flightner said. ''His dedication to Russian ought to be underscored. He did things for students at personal cost.''

Flightner, who worked with Maloney for 23 years, said Maloney's death was representative of his dedication to students.

''I feel, quite frankly, that if Phil were to have chosen a way to go, this would have been it - laughing and talking with students,'' Flightner said.

Maloney, who served as grand marshal of last year's Missoula St. Patrick's Day Parade, was also very active with the University Teachers Union. He served as president of the UTU in the early '90s and was currently on the union's executive board.

''Phil was a very active faculty member,'' Fetz said. ''He was active politically, culturally and curricularly. He was a very gregarious, outgoing and likable guy. He's going to be sorely missed.''

Funeral services are Monday, under the direction of Garden City Funeral Home.

copyright 1998 by the Missoulian

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