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John Sanford, News Service (650) 736-2151; e-mail:

Elisabeth Stenbock-Fermor, former Stanford assistant professor and Russian émigré, dead at 101

Elisabeth Stenbock-Fermor, a former assistant professor in the Slavic Languages and Literatures Department, died Monday, Jan. 29, at Lytton Gardens in Palo Alto. She was 101.

"She was well educated and had a marvelous, marvelous mind," said Irena Szwede, who earned her doctorate in Slavic literatures at Stanford in 1970 and was a friend and former student of Stenbock-Fermor. "She was, in a sense, a walking encyclopedia, and she was an absolutely dedicated teacher. If you would have met her, you would have been fascinated by her."

Stenbock-Fermor was born Elisabeth Sevastopoulo. She grew up in a wealthy family in Odessa, a city in what was then southern Russia. Her father was of Greek descent; her mother was Russian. At home, they spoke mainly Russian and French. The family fled to France at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, as did many other Russians. She married a Russian émigré, the Count Ivan Stenbock-Fermor, in Paris. The couple relocated to the United States in 1946 and settled on the East Coast.

Elisabeth Stenbock-Fermor earned her doctorate at Harvard University in 1955 and taught Russian at Smith, Harvard, Wellesley and Mount Holyoke College, where she was acting head of the Russian Department. She also taught at the Army Language School in Monterey (now called the Defense Language Institute) before coming to Stanford, where she taught various courses in Russian from 1959 to 1970.

"She was a very cultivated woman, and she was a very charming person," recalled history Professor Terence Emmons.

The Stenbock-Fermors' home in the Palo Alto neighborhood of College Terrace was always open to students, according to Szwede.

Stenbock-Fermor's husband died in 1986. She is survived by a nephew, Dimitri Sevastopoulo, of New York, and a niece, Marina Weir, who lives in Scotland.

Funeral services are scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 1, at the Russian Orthodox Church of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin, 1220 Crane St., Menlo Park.


By John Sanford

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