An LSU professor considered a “keystone member” of LSU’s English/linguistics faculty was killed Sunday when she was struck by a pickup truck in East Feliciana Parish, State Police said.
Elisabeth Oliver, 63, was walking in the southbound lane of La. 952 around noon after the bicycle she had been riding had mechanical problems, according to a State Police news release.
A pickup truck, driven by 79-year-old Jessie Banguel, of Clinton, came out of a right-hand curve also in the southbound lane of La. 952 about a mile north of La. 10 and began to go up a hill when it struck Oliver, State Police said. There is no sidewalk in the area where Oliver was walking and the road is a “rural, curvy roadway,” said State Police spokesman Trooper First Class Bryan Lee in an email.
Oliver was taken to Our Lady of the Lake Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
State Police do not suspect impairment was a factor in the crash, according to the news release.
Banguel showed no detectable signs of alcohol when given a chemical breath test, the news release said. A toxicology sample was taken from Oliver and submitted to the State Police Crime Lab for analysis.
The crash is under investigation, and charges “are still pending,” said Lee.
Standing across the street from Oliver’s house Monday afternoon in Baton Rouge, LSU English professor Jesse Gellrich and LSU graduate student Joseph Wingenbach remembered Oliver as a beloved scholar, musician, and avid cyclist. She’d been preparing for an annual cycling trip to France, Gellrich said.
“She was a keystone member of our department,” he said, “a vital and visible person in Medieval Studies in the United States and Europe who was just graced with the most distinguished scholarly academic award given by the LSU general academic community — distinguished research master.”
A graduate of Smith College for her bachelor’s degree, “Lisi,” as she was known, was close with her students, Gellrich said.
“You will find a lot of students who call her their adoptive mother,” said Wingenbach, who said Oliver was his dissertation adviser.
The professor taught undergraduate and graduate courses in the history of the English language, linguistics, Old English Literature and Middle English Literature among others.
“My understanding is the road (Oliver was walking on) is a rural highway. There are ditches on the sides of the road so there’s not really any place that you can go,” said Wingenbach, who lives across the street from Oliver. Her car was parked at her house all day Sunday, he said, and guessed Oliver may have traveled with someone for the bike trip in Jackson.
“We’re all very shocked,” he said.
Oliver received a doctorate in linguistics at Harvard University in 1995, and taught there for a year before joining the faculty at LSU in 1996. In 2011, she was named the Greater Houston Chapter Alumni Chair. Her appointment is in the Department of English, and she is a core faculty member of the Interdepartmental Program in Linguistics, according to LSU’s website.