Lillian M. Bisson

lillian bisson
Dr. Lillian M Bisson, 80, a college English professor and medieval literature scholar, who worked at Marymount University for 41 years before retiring in 2010, died September 27. Dr. Bisson, born in Holyoke, MA, lived in McLean, VA for the last 46 years.

Dr. Bisson, earned her doctorate from Florida State University in 1969 before moving to the Washington, DC area. Her primary field of interest was late medieval literature, particularly Chaucer and Dante studies and feminist studies, particularly relating to Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf.

Dr. Bisson, former Chair of the Department of Literature and Languages and Director of the Marymount Graduate Program in Humanities, was recognized by Marymount for her passion for the humanities by inclusion in its Graduate Program in English and Humanities distinguished scholar program which annually invites a distinguished scholar to campus to deliver the Bisson Lecture on a topic of humanistic inquiry.

Her book, Chaucer and the Late Medieval World, was selected by Choice as an Outstanding Academic Book of 1998. Both the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded her grants for summer institutes to enrich the background of high school teachers in medieval studies. She also served as a program officer for the National Endowment for the Humanities

Dr. Bisson is predeceased by her husband and childhood sweetheart, Dr. Arthur E. Bisson, former director of science and technology in the Office of Naval Research. She is survived by her brother Donald Perrault and sons, Eric and Jeff and daughter Lee Moser. “Memere” was grandmother to seven grandchildren including Brandon Moser, Noland Moser, Max Moser, Jake Moser, Aurora Bisson, Ellie Moser, and Lucy Bisson.

Family and friends are invited to gather on Sunday, October 3, 2021, at 3:00 pm for a mask-wearing, socially distanced Memorial Mass at St. Luke Serbian Orthodox Church, 6801 Georgetown Pike, McLean, VA 22101. A coffee reception will follow immediately after Mass. Burial will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to PAX Community, or to a scholarship at Marymount University in her name, in the comments section please include Lillian Bisson Scholarship.

Friends are invited to offer condolences to the family of Dr. Lillian Bisson at

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Memories Timeline


  1. Thank you Memere for joining us at the beach and waiving good-bye to the ocean after all the fun. We love you.

  2. Lillian’s warm smile was elegant and her laugh was contagious. She encouraged thoughts as vast as the midnight sky and calmness as peaceful as an ocean breeze. She listened with patience and loved wisely. May her memory live on and continue to be ever present, comforting your family forever. Sharing in your sorrow, Monique Sauer

  3. Memere, you were so sweet and kind to me all the time! Thank you for all the English papers you helped me get through in college! I’ll miss your laugh and going for walks through the neighborhood. Love, Noland

  4. Dr. Bisson was one of four professors who made me the teacher I am today. She will always be in my heart. Dr. David Beach, Marymount ’93

  5. Dear family, Dr. Bisson was my professor at Marymount for two literature classes. She was such an inspiring professor and helped me to enjoy literature that I probably would not have read. Her twinkle in her eye and the way she talked about books was captivating. I have such wonderful memories of her and the classes. My condolences to your family and I hope her memories will live on in your hearts. Mary Anne Sherwood

  6. I remember first meeting Lillian, at my interview for an adjunct faculty position at Marymount on a warm, sunny day in her library-like office in Gailhac Hall. We talked of our love of books and teaching, and it felt like coffee with a friend rather than an interview. I loved her and Marymount from the first moment I met them, and they are synonymous in my mind. I was so very fortunate to have her as a department chair and a friend for over two decades. When she laughed, you had to laugh with her, and when I was sad she would lean into me with her whole body, literally holding me up. She was an incredible person who made a huge difference in the lives of so many people, particularly the students and faculty of Marymount. It was truly an act of grace to have known her. I, like so many, would have had a radically different and lesser life had I not met her. Much love to her family and many thanks for sharing her with us.

  7. My husband, Sean Hoare, taught at Marymount for many years under Lillian’s chairmanship. Lillian was a beacon of leadership, as well as a staunch friend and great fun to be with. I’ll never forget the way she once pulled triumph from disaster on a field trip. She and Sean were conducting a summer enrichment workshop on Chaucer and Joyce for 30 young high school teachers, which included a bus trip to New York on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. I tagged along. It was already 103° when the chartered bus broke down on I-95 somewhere north of Baltimore and the driver ran off, leaving us spread out along the roadside with our luggage still stowed in the bus. Somehow Lillian turned the danger of mass heatstroke into hired school buses, several dozen train tickets, a change of hotels, and a successful arrival in New York for persons and bags. The teachers made it to their evening shows and of course to the next day’s full tour of the Cloisters to enrich their understanding of the medieval world. Just one story of many that could be told. We were so fortunate to know Lillian, an amazing leader, teacher, and friend.

  8. As an MU faculty colleague, I’ll always remember the combination of grace, passion and eloquence Lillian exemplified in everything she did and said. She was a remarkable woman who touched many lives. My condolences to her family and friends. Terry Long

  9. You will be deeply missed Memere, but you will live on through the memories. I will always reminisce about the sunny summer trips to the Crab Claw in St. Michael’s and eating crab and ice cream until our stomachs’ content. These were the days! Love you!

  10. Dear Dr. Bisson’s Family, I am so sorry for your loss. It is heartbreaking to know that you and the world have lost one of the kindest and brightest people. I met Dr. Bisson back in 2002, when I applied for Marymount University’s Master’s program from my home country of Belarus. I’m afraid I was so unrelenting in phoning and emailing her begging her to accept my application for Graduate Assistant (she later called me “determined”, I believe) that she had no choice but give in, and by doing so she made a miracle possible. A poor student was able to study in the program for free and as a result have a completely different life. I loved being Dr. Bisson’s assistant. I still remember her amused look when I would bring in her mail and open the envelopes with my clumsy hands. She never commented on my technique or suggested I find a letter opener. She always, always was so kind and generous. It’s been a blessing to know her. I hadn’t been in touch with her for a while, which I will always regret. The last photo I have of us dates back to 2011. May her sweet soul rest in peace in God’s Kingdom. She will always be in my prayers. Galina Caldin (nee Palyvian)

  11. I met Dr. Bisson in 2001 as a transfer student and became an English major roughly 15 minutes later. She was warm, encouraging, and really, really funny. (I’ll never forget when one of her children was moving to Dallas and she exclaimed, “Can you imagine? There’s nothing medieval in Dallas!”) In her classes, I got over my fear of public speaking, became comfortable asking questions, and started pursuing the interesting over the safe. I don’t know who I would have become if I had not been taught by her. To her family, thank you for sharing her with us.

  12. Dr. Bisson embraced the soul of a true educator who not only teaches and delivers knowledge, but also reads students verbally and nonverbally! I can’t forget how she could tell that I was full of words but was too shy and self-conscious to utter one, coming from a different culture and speaking English as a second language! She saw the questions in my eyes and felt the fear in my heart, and without saying a word, she used to look at me and nod, giving me green light to encourage me to speak up! And I did because of her! And becsuse of her, I became more confident! She never cared about my non-American accent because she only cared about my ideas and passion! The passion she was able to transmit and make contagious! I can’t forget what she did to support me when I was unable to submit my final paper and how she gave me faith that I could and I did! If I can only be to one student what she was to me, I will live fullfillingly and contently for the rest of my life! Thank you Dr. Bisson! You may be immortalized in the hearts of your students!

  13. To the Bisson, Moser, Perrault family, I am so sorry for your loss – a great loss for all who knew Lillian and were touched by her wisdom, humor, and kindness. I will forever hold her in my heart. Art and Lillian embraced Antares into their family and I was so lucky to be included in that embrace. Peace be with you. – Elaine

  14. Dr. Bisson and I met when I was registering at orientation. I remember her saying, “An English major who placed into Calculus II, that’s a fortuitous combination.” I took several classes with her during my time at Marymount as both an undergrad and grad program. I loved hanging out with her and loved that she would just welcome me into her office when I was bored and wandering around the top floor of Gailhac. I loved listening to her read middle and old English. It seemed so fluent. She had a calming affect on me even when we both knew I had not done my best work. And the proudest moment I had was after presenting a final paper for grad school she told me, “It took you long enough. You always had the perfect Catholic school papers so you always got a good grade, but you finally took a risk, and it was amazing.” I was blessed for knowing her. Thank you for sharing her with us all.

  15. Eric, Lee, Jeff, and families: It is with a heavy heart that I offer my sympathies to you all on the loss of your Mom, Lillian. I met Lil in 7th grade. We had just moved to Willimansett and she had just gotten out of the hospital having contracted polio. We quickly became best friends and saw each other practically everyday, whether it was to hang out or at dances and school or helping her get ready for school or some event. We were together for our respective weddings. We watched our families grow together. We were there for each other when we lost our husbands. Although the last few years were a challenge for Lil, we did manage to speak a few times and like it is for all good friends, it was easy to pick up right where we left off as if time didn’t separate us at all. I am truly grateful to Lee, Bill and their family for caring for Lil on a daily basis and for Eric and Jeff for their part in her care as well. She was a great friend and she will be truly missed.

  16. Amen to the many positive comments made about Lillian by other Marymount people. She also enriched my life spiritually, professionally and personally. It was a privilege to teach under her English Department guidance, and I was comforted over the years by her support during my family’s illnesses and deaths. She introduced me to the Pax Community and some of its members have also been positive influences in my life. Lee, Eric, Jeff, and the rest of the family — May you be comforted knowing you did so much for Lillian and Art during their final years, and may you cherish their memories as outstanding role models.

  17. What a great loss. Just saw this today. Had her as a teacher at Marymount and she always had a kind word of encouragement if class was tough. Really admired her. her children were lucky to have her. Monica Bode-McDonald

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