Patsy Musto obituary | Language courses

My friend Patsy Musto, who died of leukemia at 74, co-founded and ran the educational travel company French Encounters, which organized trips in French for British schoolchildren.

Born in Alexandria, Egypt, Patsy was the daughter of Gordon Callow, a British naval officer stationed there, and Soula (née Cassolou), from a Greek family who fled to torn Alexandria from Smyrna. war in 1922. In 1949 the family moved to Jamaica and in 1955 to the United Kingdom, eventually settling in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire, where both parents were teachers.

As a child, Patsy traveled frequently to the south of France to stay with maternal cousins, which contributed to her passion for multicultural dating and the importance of speaking other languages. After leaving Bromsgrove County High School, she studied English at the University of East Anglia. She did not graduate, but instead trained as a teacher at Shenstone High School in Bromsgrove, where she graduated in 1968.

She taught in London until 1971 when she returned to Bromsgrove and, after a brief period of teaching at a school, worked for over 20 years as a Senior Lecturer in Management Studies at Birmingham College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies. While working there, Patsy obtained a BA from the Open University (1982) and an MA in Social Sciences from the University of Birmingham (1986).

In 1981, her mother went to work in Normandy, France, for Guardian Overseas Education, which organized language trips for students from the United Kingdom. I met Patsy while working for Soula during this time. After the Guardian’s withdrawal from this activity in 1986, Soula and Patsy took it over via French Encounters.

Patsy left the Food College in 1993 to manage French Encounters full time, and in 2000 she and Soula purchased a house in Villequier as a permanent base in Normandy for the business. Patsy has tirelessly developed the program and, with over 1,000 students participating each year, its impact on language learning has been significant. Many of the company’s staff were gap year students away from home for the first time, and Patsy was very supportive of them.

She ended the educational travel component of French Encounters in 2007, but kept the company in business by offering guest rooms in her Norman house.

By promoting the communication skills of young people in their own language as well as in other languages, Patsy made an immense contribution to the English Speaking Board, most notably as Honorary Secretary in the 1990s, and served as Chief Justice (2009 -2019) of the public speaking competition organized by the Soroptimists, of which she was a committed member. She loved Shakespeare’s plays and participated in and directed many amateur dramatic events.

Patsy was a generous, funny, outspoken host and a committed socialist and internationalist. She put her heart and soul into everything she did. Dismayed by Brexit, she had recently applied for French nationality.

A marriage to David Musto in 1975 ended in divorce in 1985. Patsy is survived by several cousins.


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Sylvester L. Goldfarb

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