Published August 2, 2018
Jeannette Marie Ludwig, associate professor emerita of French, died July 29 of metastatic colon cancer. She was 68.
Ludwig was born on Sept. 29, 1949, the first child of George and Ruth (Mann) Ludwig, and was raised in Des Moines, Iowa. During high school, she spent a year in Sweden as an exchange student under the auspices of the American Field Service and became fluent in Swedish.
She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Drake University and earned a doctorate in Romance linguistics from the University of Michigan, specializing in second language acquisition. A graduate scholarship from the Rotary Foundation allowed her to study linguistics in Strasbourg, France.
Ludwig came to UB in 1977 to teach a variety of French linguistics courses in what is now the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. She was the director of the French Language Program, where she supervised graduate student teaching assistants in elementary and intermediate French.
She received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1980, and the Didaskalos Award from the Campus Ministry Association in 1992. Together with her husband, Claude Welch, SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of Political Science, she received the Cardinal Newman Award for service to the university in 2015.
In the mid-1980s, Ludwig served for several years as associate dean for undergraduate studies in the then-Faculty of Arts and Letters, and in the early 1990s as associate vice provost for undergraduate studies. She was the first woman to serve in those capacities.
Active in the development of a revised undergraduate curriculum in general education, she helped develop a path-breaking course entitled “American Pluralism,” which took up the issues of race, gender, class, ethnicity and religion in America. She designed and taught a course on women’s language, and spoke widely on the issue in civic and leadership groups.
In 1998, she earned an MA in theology from Christ the King Seminary and began teaching comparative religion, Asian religions and Buddhism in the Religious Studies and Asian Studies programs at UB. In 2006, she co-chaired the committee that organized the Interfaith Religious Service as part of the three-day visit to UB of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Travel was a great interest of Ludwig’s, particularly as it informed her teaching and bolstered her fabric collection. She and Welch spent time in France, Africa and India, in addition to shorter trips to China, Japan and Southeast Asia. In conjunction with her sibling, Trudi, the couple led several group art and historical trips to various locations in Europe, co-lecturing on politics, linguistics, religious history and art history. Just prior to retirement, Ludwig and Welch taught for a semester in Singapore.
An active member of Westminster Presbyterian Church, Ludwig was ordained as an elder and chaired several key committees. In 1997, she helped found the Zen Dharma Community, a Buddhist group in Buffalo. In 2007, she received jukai (lay ordination) in the Mountains and Rivers Order of Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, New York. Abbott John Daido Loori included her in the transmission of the Buddhist ancestral lineage with the name Choho, by which she was called in her Zen community.
A sought-after community speaker, Ludwig enriched the lives of many by teaching Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism at Elderhostel, the Chautauqua Institution and at many Erie County senior centers. She was an avid lifelong learner who found joy in obscure facts and connections. She had a gift for making complex information accessible to a wide range of audiences with clarity and humor.
Ludwig possessed a love for detail, particularly in human faces and rich color. Her workspaces were decorated with an ever-changing collage of powerful images and quotations. She was able to create beauty from other people’s castoffs. She made complex quilts, vestments and wall hangings, many of which were fashioned from men’s silk ties. She also upcycled vintage tablecloths into summer dresses for her granddaughters, and tweedy wool skirts into braided rugs. She valued justice, humor, hard work and creativity of all kinds.
In addition to Welch, her husband of 37 years, Ludwig is survived by three step-children, Sarah Welch, Martha Dyer and Christopher Welch; seven grandchildren, Sahale and Emma Riedel; Alice, Claudia and Jack Dyer; and Gabriella and Michael Welch; and three siblings, Eric Ludwig, Lisé Ludwig and Trudi Ludwig. Her step-daughter, Lisa, died in 2017 and her brother, Karl (Fritz), died in 2016.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Sept. 29 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Buffalo. In lieu of flowers, donations in her memory may be made to American Field Service, the UB Foundation (Welch-Ludwig Fund), Westminster Presbyterian Church or Zen Mountain Monastery.