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Frances Ingemann, department founder, passes away at 90

Monday, January 29, 2018

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas community is mourning the death of Frances Ingemann, professor emerita of linguistics. She died Jan. 28 at age 90. 

A highly influential colleague, she arrived on campus in 1957 and founded the Department of Linguistics in 1967. The current department is, to a large extent, the fruit of her vision and persistence, colleagues noted. Although formally retired in 2000, Frances continued to be an active member of the department, attending departmental colloquies and other social functions.

“Professor Ingemann was an instrumental figure for decades in our linguistics department who made numerous important contributions to her university and her field of research during her career," said Chancellor Douglas A. Girod. "I am saddened to learn of her death, and, on behalf of the entire university, I offer my deepest condolences to all who knew her as a family member, mentor, colleague and friend.”

Ingemann received her doctorate in linguistics from Indiana University in 1956. Her dissertation was on East Cheremis, a language of the former Soviet Union. She then spent a year at Haskins Laboratories in New York City, conducting groundbreaking research in the area of speech synthesis. When the region where Cheremis was spoken was closed off to foreigners, Ingemann changed her focus to Ipili. Only slightly more accessible, this language is spoken in the east New Guinea highlands, and Ingemann was the first linguist to visit the area and document the language.

Ingemann's distinguished career at KU included chairing the linguistics department for many years. She was active in University Governance and the first woman to chair the Faculty Senate. She was inducted into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 1977. She spoke at the department’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2017 about the beginnings and growth of linguistics at KU. 

Ingemann was a loyal, generous supporter of the linguistics department. Her name graces the annual Frances Ingemann Lecture series. In addition, the Frances Ingemann Linguistics scholarship has supported generations of graduate students.

Services will be at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 2700 Lawrence Ave., in Lawrence. Inurnment will follow at KU’s Pioneer Cemetery.


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