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Farewell, "French Chef''

When Julia McWillliams Child '34 visited campus as an alumna-in-residence in October 2001, she told students: "You have to want to learn, and you have to love to eat." Wise words from a unique Smith graduate whose culinary talents became legendary. Well-respected, always enthusiastic and gifted with an unpretentious knack for spontaneous humor, Child became America's first and best-loved celebrity chef. She died August 13 at her California home two days before her 92nd birthday
Child earned a history degree from Smith in 1934, and some 27 years later made history of her own with the publication of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and then six more best-selling cookbooks. She became famous as the hostess of "The French Chef," an award-winning PBS television series that evolved from the success of her first cookbook.

Child was honored as one of Smith College's remarkable alumnae in 1999. Throughout her life, she was an active Smith alumna, visiting frequently at the college's request on special occasions and fostering a generous relationship that began shortly after her graduation.

Julia Child '34 returned to campus as an alumna-in-residence in October 2001 and, not surprisingly, ended up in the kitchen cooking spring rolls with Davy Kong '02. Photo courtesy Daily Hampshire Gazette.

In 1941 Child and her father, John McWilliams Jr., established the Carolyn Weston McWilliams Scholarship Fund in honor of Child's mother who graduated from Smith in 1900. Now, with a large endowment, the scholarship is available to young women from California, or to those from other Pacific Coast states if there are no applicants from California. Two students from the Oakland, California, area were last year's recipients of the McWilliams Scholarship.

Child also established a $200,000 trust for the college in 1994 after the death of her husband, Paul Child. When she retired to California in 2001, she donated her house to Smith and the contents of her kitchen to the Smithsonian Institution. She also made a significant gift toward the construction of college's new campus center.

Child was loved by many, and her death is mourned by all those whose lives she touched. "It is rare to meet someone who has inspired and influenced as many people as Julia did," says Smith President Carol T. Christ. "She leaves a legacy that will long be remembered, not only for her love of fine cooking but also for her exuberance for life."

Child's advice to the cook was often sensible and uncomplicated. "It's fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day," she commented on one occasion. "That's what human life is all about -- enjoying things."
Events to celebrate the life and legacy of Julia Child will be held this fall on the Smith campus. Further details are forthcoming.

 
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