Dr Christina Roaf (Drake), 1917-2014

Dr Christina Roaf, former University Lecturer in Italian, has died on 18th June at the age of 96.

Dr Roaf was born on 17 November 1917 and named after Christina Rossetti, who had once lived in the house. An account of her childhood appeared in the 2003 Somerville Magazine in the “Life before Somerville” section. Much of her childhood was spent travelling around Europe in the company of her mother, Vera Waddington, an exhibition of whose work she helped put on in 2007-08.

Taught by the legendary Enid Starkie, she gained a First in Modern Languages from Somerville, thanks in part to her proficiency in spoken French and Italian. During the War, she worked for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office research department, and was later posted to the British Consulate in Milan (1945) and the British Embassy in Rome (1946).

She returned to research and temporary teaching in Oxford from 1949 until 1952, beginning work on a D.Phil. thesis on Bartolomeo Cavalcanti, which – after many interruptions – she eventually completed in 1959. After two years as Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Italian at the University of Leeds, she came back to Oxford in 1954 with an appointment as University Lecturer in Italian, and as such was responsible for the teaching of Italianists in many Colleges, notably the former women’s Colleges.

She became an Official Fellow of Somerville in 1965, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in 1979, and an Emeritus Fellow on retirement in 1985; for many years she was also the College Wine Steward. Her first major publication, an edition of the letters of Cavalcanti, appeared in 1967, and the most recent, an edition of Francesco Sansovino’s Le Lettere sopra le diece giornate del Decamerone di M. Giovanni Boccaccio, in 2003.

Her generosity to her College was exceptional over the years, as she founded the Vera Waddington Fund (1982) for art exhibitions in the College, the Christina Roaf Fund (1992) for books on Italy for the library, and the Christina and Douglas Roaf Fund (1998) to support the study and teaching of Modern Languages. She was also a Foundation Fellow of Somerville and a member of the Vice-Chancellor’s Circle. She also generously set up a Modern Languages Faculty Trust Fund to benefit students of Italian.

She was known as an extremely warm and gregarious person, and her pupils have fond memories of being entertained in her home. After retirement, she continued to take a great interest in the College and in her former pupils, of whose achievements she was always very proud, as well as faithfully attending the Oxford Dante Society into her nineties.

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