In Memoriam: Michèle Hansen

By Larry Bogoslaw, deputy ATA Certification Committee chair, and Corinne McKay, ATA past president (2017–2019)

We are sad to inform you of the passing of ATA Certification Committee Chair Michèle Hansen. Michèle, a devoted member for 33 years, died on December 5 after a short battle with cancer.

Michèle spent her early life in Hinsdale, Illinois, then moved to Jakarta, Indonesia, where she graduated from the Jakarta International School. She then attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, earning a BA in French and Chinese. During her undergraduate studies, Michèle spent her junior year in the south of France. After graduation, she earned a certificate in medical writing from the University of Chicago, a certificate in pharmaceutical writing from the American Medical Writers Association, and her ATA certification (French>English).

Michèle applied her knowledge of medical topics to projects in international development and global health for national and international health and public health agencies as well as non-governmental organizations. These projects included health policy, epidemiology, and public health programs in sub-Saharan Africa and Haiti, with a focus on malaria, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, vaccine-preventable diseases, and immunization campaigns. Related translations for sustainable development and “One Health” included agricultural and veterinary research.

Michèle had significant experience with documentation for the pharmaceutical industry. Her clients included many of the major pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Michèle was also an adjunct instructor of French>English medical translation at the New York University School of Professional and Continuing Studies and taught French>English medical translation at the University of Chicago Graham School. Michèle loved to share her passion for lifelong learning, and her students consistently remarked on the thought and care she put into preparing her courses. They described her as “An excellent instructor and a continuing education ambassador” and “An expert translator who is also clear, approachable, and funny.” One student even remarked, “I would take any class she teaches, just for the pleasure of learning from her.”

Michèle went above and beyond in her service to ATA. A longtime member of the French Language Division (FLD), she served as assistant administrator and then division administrator. She was known in the FLD as a valued editing partner and as a colleague who could always be counted on for advice and support. She was a frequent presenter at ATA conferences, covering topics ranging from how to prepare for ATA’s certification exam to translating for the international development sector. In 2014, Michèle joined the Certification Committee, where her energy and initiative helped effect some of the program’s most major changes in decades: first, the computerized certification exam (where candidates bring their own computers to public sittings) and, more recently, the online exam (where candidates complete and submit their translations from home).

Michèle will long be remembered as a treasured colleague who was also a genuinely kind and generous person. Every interaction with Michèle had a human touch, whether it was her efforts to keep her dog from barking at the UPS truck during online presentations, or her plans for a spontaneous trip to stomp grapes during the wine harvest in southern France. (“Why not?” was Michèle’s explanation!)

Her volunteer endeavors were imbued with a spirit of collaboration, purposefulness, and good cheer. When faced with setbacks and difficult questions, she often responded with a joke, and always with optimism and industrious effort. Michèle was a resourceful colleague and leader who was not only great to work with but fun to be around.

Michèle was also much cherished outside of ATA. Her obituary reads, in part: “Michèle raised two wonderful daughters who are committed to keeping her spirit alive. Michèle enjoyed walking her dogs with friends, crossword puzzles, international travel, jazz music, archery, and hosting dinner parties. Michèle was generous to the extreme with her time and resources, often helping others in need. She supported Tibetan refugees as a young adult and donated to many charities throughout her life.”

Michèle will be greatly missed by the ATA community. To honor her memory, her family suggests a donation to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières.

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