Raymond D. Giraud, a professor emeritus of French who was known on campus and in the Bay Area as an activist on behalf of a wide range of political issues, died June 17. He was 85. Giraud was born in New York City on August 26, 1920. He earned a bachelor's degree at City College of New York in 1941 and a master's degree at the University of Chicago in 1949. In 1954, he was awarded his doctorate from Yale University, where he worked as an instructor and assistant professor. He joined the Stanford faculty in 1958.
Giraud was the author of the highly praised 1957 book, The Unheroic Hero in the Novels of Balzac, Stendahl and Flaubert, but he gave much of his energy to the political realm, said Robert Cohn, professor emeritus of French. Giraud was a very endearing person who could be pretty stubborn, Cohn recalled. "He was good-hearted and spontaneous—with streaks of genius."
In a 1990 talk, Giraud characterized his activism as a "struggle on many fronts" against the "callous, amoral exploitation of human as well as animal victims for power and profit." An outspoken critic of the Vietnam War, Giraud led petition drives in protest of American military actions and criticized Stanford's relationships with corporations and industry.
With his wife, Lise Giraud, a librarian emerita, Giraud was an active member of In Defense of Animals, an animal rights organization. In 1986, the year he retired, he was among 21 people arrested outside university President Donald Kennedy's office while protesting the treatment of animals in research experiments. In 2000, the Girauds were part of a team of international observers who visited polling stations during Haitian elections.
Activism was an essential part of Giraud's life, said Rush Rehm, professor of drama and of classics. "He just kept doing it. He was in for the long haul."