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Founding Chair of CSUF Foreign Languages and Literatures Department Dies
Gustave Bording Mathieu, emeritus professor of foreign languages, died Feb. 16 of pneumonia, following a stroke

February 20, 2007 :: No. 133

Gustave Bording Mathieu, Cal State Fullerton emeritus professor of foreign languages and literatures and the university’s 1966-67 Outstanding Professor Award recipient, died Feb. 16 of pneumonia, following a stroke. The Laguna Beach resident was 85.

Mathieu joined the Cal State Fullerton faculty in 1960 as founding chair of the Foreign Languages and Literatures (now Modern Languages and Literatures) Department and taught for 26 years.

During his six-year tenure as department chair, he established a policy calling for all faculty members in the department to teach introductory and advanced courses on a rotation basis.

Born in Germany and raised in France after 1933, Mathieu came to the United States in 1937, and served from 1942 to 1948 in the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain (ski troops) and Psychological Warfare divisions. While in the service, Mathieu worked from 1945 to 1948 as news chief of the American-controlled, German-language radio station, Radio in American Sector (RIAS) in Berlin, where he came across top-secret directives from the Nazi Ministry of Propaganda and People’s Enlightenment. Later, when working on his doctorate at Columbia University, Mathieu researched the directives that the Nazi regime had issued on such literary figures as Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller and Kleist.

In 1967, the professor of French and German received Cal State Fullerton’s top faculty honor — the Outstanding Professor Award, in recognition of his teaching, research and service. When he presented his Outstanding Professor Lecture, he offered a glimpse into the world of World War II German propagandists and their use of literature for propaganda purposes.

Mathieu introduced students to the cultural aspects of language by inviting as guest lecturers Tony Award-winning actress Lotte Lenya, acclaimed for the role she created in  “The Threepenny Opera,” and Rita Dove, a Fulbright Scholar later named U.S. Poet Laureate. In 1979, he organized for the university library an exhibit of the posters of photo-montage satirist Klaus Staeck. “A Critical View of Today’s Germany” became a touring exhibit to Goethe Institute cultural centers around the country.

While building the department he chaired, Mathieu set aside half the faculty appointments for those who were non-native speakers of the languages they would be teaching “to demonstrate that Americans could be role models as foreign-language teachers,” he explained. These faculty members included professor Marjorie O. Tussing, as well as Leon J. Gilbert, Charles Shapley and Curtis W. Swanson, now emeritus professors.

In addition to his campus activities, Mathieu served four years as resident director of the California State Colleges International Programs in Berlin, Germany, and Aix en Provence, France, as well as national president of the American Association of Teachers of German. At the end of his two-year term, Mathieu was honored for his dedication to the preservation of the independence and integrity of the national organization.

Prior to joining the Fullerton faculty, Mathieu was assistant professor at Pomona College.

In addition to his work at Fullerton, he taught National Defense Education Act summer institutes at Northwestern University, UCI, and the universities of Washington, Colorado and Montana.

Mathieu was the author of more than 40 articles and papers, in addition to being co-author of the books “Brieflich Erzählt (Told in Letters),” “Deutsch für alle (German for Everybody)” and “Invitation to German Poetry,” and editor/publisher of Modern Language Abstracts. In retirement, he continued to write and was familiar to readers of his annual review of city events, “Laguna Beach Toast & Roast,” written in satiric verse, for the Coastline News and Laguna Beach Independent.

An active environmentalist and backpacking Sierra Club member, Mathieu fought vigorously to outlaw leaf blowers in Laguna Beach.

Mathieu is survived by his Danish-born wife of more than 50 years, Lea; as well as sons, Marc, Kent and Bryn, and grandchildren, Kazumi, Ryden and Carla-Maria. A private funeral service was held.

Media Contacts:

Pamela McLaren of Public Affairs, 657-278-4852 or

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