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Winfred P. Lehmann

June 23, 1916 - August 1, 2007

N.B. An obituary notice appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on Friday, August 3, 2007. What follows is extracted from that source, with family details largely omitted.

Winfred Philip "Win" Lehmann, Louann & Larry Temple Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Humanities at the University of Texas, died in Austin on August 1, 2007 at age 91.

He was born June 23, 1916 in Surprise, Nebraska, to Rev. Philip Lehmann and Elenore Grosnick. In 1936 he earned his B.A. in Humanities at Northwestern College in Watertown, Wisconsin; in 1938 he earned his M.A. in Germanic Linguistics at the University of Wisconsin, and in 1941 his Ph.D. He married Ruth Preston Miller Oct. 12, 1940 in Madison, Wisconsin. They had two children.

During WW II, Win worked for the U.S. Army Signal Corps as an Instructor in Japanese, and was Officer-in-Charge of the Japanese Language School; afterwards, from 1946-1949, he was an Instructor and Assistant Professor in the Department of German at Washington University. In 1949 he was recruited to the University of Texas as an Associate Professor of Germanic Languages; in 1951 he was promoted to Full Professor. As Chairman from 1953-1964, he elevated the Department to the first rank in the U.S. His recruitment to UT, however, had had an even greater goal: the establishment of a national-caliber linguistics program. He exceeded all expectations. In 1953 he was formally appointed Director of the "Program in Linguistics" at UT, which he built into the Department of Linguistics in 1964; along the way, while Chairman of Germanic Languages, he helped recruit to UT other linguists of international repute including Emmon Bach, Robert Harms, Edgar Polomé, and Werner Winter to name but a few. He became the first Chairman of Linguistics, and served in that capacity for eight years. For five years beginning in 1960, he was Acting Chairman of Slavonic Languages in addition to other duties.

He founded the Linguistics Research Center in 1961, and served as its Director until his death; the LRC has brought millions of dollars in research grants to UT to study machine translation -- computer software to translate, e.g., German into English -- and, later, historical linguistics. Other UT centers for which he was at least partly responsible, by virtue of securing their initial funding and nominating their later directors, included the Arabic Center (now the Center for Middle Eastern Studies) and the Hindi-Telugu Center (later the South Asia Center). But his influence was felt even beyond the realm of academic departments and centers.

Win's academic publishing career spanned 68 years. Beginning in 1938 he authored or edited more than 50 books and special issues of journals, his last book being Pre-Indo-European in 2002; he published over 250 journal articles and more than 140 reviews of scholarly works from 1940-2006. He was awarded over a dozen international academic appointments and honors, including the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany: Commander's Cross to name just one. He was elected President of several professional societies, and served on a number of international commissions, committees, and boards. His language expertise encompassed Arabic, Japanese, Turkish, and a host of diverse Indo-European languages in at least the Celtic, Germanic, Italic, Balto-Slavic, Hellenic, Anatolian, and Indo-Iranian families. He appeared in Who's Who in the World, Who's Who in America, and at least 4 other "Who's Who..." publications; he is recognized world-wide as one of the foremost linguists of his time. He supervised approximately 50 Ph.D. dissertations, and mentored hundreds of students and others who worked on R&D projects in his various Centers; a number of these, in their turn, achieved international acclaim.

Winfred P. Lehmann was the quintessential courtly gentleman; he was a brilliant educator and author, dedicated environmentalist, and skilled pianist. He will be fondly remembered.

N.B. The University of Texas published an obituary press release on the College of Liberal Arts website. The text of that announcement appears below.
Linguist Winfred P. Lehmann Dies
Emeritus professor was founding director of the Linguistics Research Center

AUSTIN, Texas--August 2, 2007--Winfred P. Lehmann, emeritus professor of linguistics, died Aug. 1 at the age of 91. He taught at The University of Texas at Austin for 38 years and served as chair of the Department of Linguistics from 1964 to 1972.

Lehmann earned his doctor's degree in Germanic linguistics from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and specialized in the research of Indo-European linguistics, Germanic languages and machine translation.

In 1949, he joined the faculty as an associate professor of Germanic languages, eventually serving as chair of the Department of Germanic Studies from 1952 to 1964. In 1961, he founded the Linguistics Research Center (LRC), where he served as director until his death.

Lehmann was well known for his research in the areas of historical linguistics and machine translation, which examines how computers translate documents from one language to another. In 1984, Lehmann and fellow researcher Jonathan Slocum developed a groundbreaking prototype computer program for language translation that the LRC put into commercial production for Siemens, among other companies.

Lehmann was the author of several influential books, including the "Theoretical Bases of Indo-European Linguistics" (1993), "Historical Linguistics" (1992), "A Gothic Etymological Dictionary" (1986), "Syntactic Typology" (1981), "Historical Linguistics" (1962) and "Proto-Indo-European Phonology" (1952), as well as hundreds of professional articles on topics ranging from poetry and literature to arcane questions of linguistic theory. He also was the founding editor of the journal Computers and Translation, now Machine Translation.

During his teaching career, Lehmann earned numerous awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Harry Ransom Award for Teaching Excellence, the College of Liberal Arts' Pro Bene Meritis Award, and international honors from Germany, India, China, Denmark, Norway and Turkey.

He is the only person to serve as president of both the Linguistic Society of America and the Modern Language Association, the two major professional associations in linguistics and language teaching respectively.

"Winfred Lehmann was one of the leading players in the progress of UT from a strong regional university to one of the nation's top public research universities," said Robert King, professor of Linguistics and German and former dean of the College of Liberal Arts. "He took two departments, German and Linguistics, into the national rankings in the top three of graduate programs in the nation. What UT is today in linguistics and the foreign languages owes much to the Lehmann legacy."