John A. Rassias, a Dartmouth College professor of French and Italian who created a method to teach languages that was adopted by the Peace Corps, died Dec. 2 at his home in Norwich, Vt. He was 90.
Dartmouth’s president, Philip Hanlon, announced the death but did not indicate a cause.
Dr. Rassias was a consultant and developer with the Peace Corps when he directed a pilot program in 1966 to teach languages in Africa. The Rassias Method, featuring rapid-fire drills, cultural immersion and a touch of theater, was later adopted by the Peace Corps.
As a young man, he moved to Paris and studied French drama, a background that would serve him well when he developed his teaching method, which relied on a dramatic style designed to break down students’ inhibitions.
He joined Dartmouth in 1965, founded its Language Study Abroad programs and directed the foreign study programs for several years.
At Dartmouth, he founded the Rassias Center for World Languages and Cultures and became one of the founding partners of the Inter-American Partnership for Education, a Clinton Global Initiative.
A daughter, Helene Rassias-Miles, brought the method to Mexico, and in recent years, it has been taught to more than 2,000 public school teachers who have given English instruction to hundreds of thousands of Mexican students.
The method was shared with China, Bulgaria, France, Japan, Greece, Turkey and the Baltimore school system, according to Dartmouth.
John Arthur Rassias was born in 1925 in Manchester, N.H. During World War II, he served in the Marine Corps, piloting an amphibious tank during the battle of Okinawa.
He was a 1950 graduate of the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut, where he studied French. He then went to a university in Dijon, France, as a Fulbright scholar and received a doctorate there. He later studied at the Sorbonne.
His wife, Mary Evanstock Rassias, died in 2012. Survivors include three children and nine grandchildren.