Frances Ingemann, Professor Emerita of Linguistics at The University of Kansas, died on January 28th, 2018 at the age of 90. Frances was the most influential person in the history of the Linguistics Department. She started teaching Linguistics when she arrived on campus in 1957 and she founded the department in 1967. The current department is, to a large extent, the fruit of her vision and persistence. Although formally retired in 2000, Frances continued to be an active member of the department, attending departmental colloquies and other social functions until very recently.
Frances received her Ph.D. 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. Following that, Frances started what turned out to be a long and distinguished career at The University of Kansas. In addition to founding the department and serving as its chair for multiple years in multiple decades, Frances was also active in University Governance and was the first woman to chair the Faculty Senate. Frances was also inducted into the KU Women’s Hall of Fame in 1977.
When the region where Cheremis was spoken was closed off to foreigners, Frances changed her focus to Ipili. Only slightly more accessible, this language is spoken in the east New Guinea highlands and Frances was the first linguist to visit this area and document the language.
Frances was the most loyal and 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.
Many alumni returned to campus last September to celebrate the department’s 50th anniversary. One of the highlights was Frances’s speech about the beginnings and growth of Linguistics at KU. We are all very fortunate to have had Frances as a colleague, friend, mentor, and role model.
Without Frances Ingemann, there would not be a Linguistics Department at KU.
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