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In Memoriam: Honoring the Life of Dr. Phyllis Dragonas, Language Advocacy Champion and Dear Friend

Dear Language Advocates,

It is with profound sadness that we inform you of the passing of Dr. Phyllis Dragonas. Phyllis passed away on August 1, 2020 after a month of declining health spent at the Beverly Hospital.  She had been a leader, friend, and inspiration to the language community and will be deeply missed by many.

For many years, Phyllis worked as the Department Head at the Melrose Massachusetts Public Schools where she was revered as an indomitable champion of incorporating foreign languages into the core curriculum, insisting that they become a graduation requirement, and offering ELL, Immersion, and Student Exchange Programs in all districts. She continued to support language programs at the state and federal level, serving one term on the Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (MaFLA) Board of Directors, chairing their Advocacy Committee for several years, and actively representing Massachusetts during JNCL-NCLIS advocacy events in Washington, D.C. over the past 20 years. In 2008, MaFLA honored her with their Distinguished Service Award.

A Charter member of ACTFL and the Eastern Massachusetts Foreign Language Association (EMFLA), Phyllis was President of the Eastern MA Chapter of American Association of Teachers of French (AATF) during the 1970's, and served on the AATF Executive Council from 1989-1992 as their New England Regional Representative. Phyllis was honored by the French Government in 1990 with the rank of "Chevalier dans l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques," for her work in promoting the French language and Francophone culture across the United States. Her German American Partnership Program (GAPP) which she founded in 1975 at Melrose High School was written up in the "New York Times" and became the basis for her book "High School Goes Abroad: International Homestay Exchange Programs,"  published in 1983 by the Center of Applied Linguistics.

Phyllis was much more than a professional colleague for so many.  She was passionate, dedicated, articulate, and shared a compelling message with everyone she met. She had boundless energy, strength of character, and determination when it came to her advocacy for languages. JNCL-NCLIS is honored to have known and worked with such a dynamic leader in our profession. 

May the memory of Phyllis be a blessing to all whose lives she touched and be an inspiration for future generations to come.

With deepest sympathy,

The JNCL-NCLIS Staff and Board of Directors


The family hopes to plan a memorial celebration of life to honor Phyllis at a later date.  In the meantime, we invite you to share your memories of Phyllis with us on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Messages of sympathy can be sent to Phyllis' brother, Dr. Peter Dragonas at:

  • Messages of sympathy can be mailed to her family at: 23 Appleton Ave., Beverly, MA 01915

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