- Winfred P. Lehmann
Winfred P. Lehmann ('Win' to all the world), president of the LSA in 1973, joined the University of Texas faculty in 1949 as a professor of German. When he retired in 1985 as Louann and Larry Temple Centennial Professor Emeritus in the Humanities and heaped with honors, he could look back on a record of public and personal accomplishment in academics that now seems out of reach for any one person. He chaired two departments at the University of Texas at Austin—Germanic Languages and Linguistics—into the top five in the ratings of graduate programs in North America where they remained for some twenty-five years. He directed the Linguistics Research Center of the University of Texas from 1961 until his death in 2007. He was elected president of the two most important and prestigious professional organizations in linguistics and the modern languages, the Linguistic Society of America and the Modern Language Association, the only instance in which a single individual has been elected to the presidency of both organizations. And he accomplished all of this at little if any cost to his personal scholarship: he published well over three dozen books and hundreds of scholarly articles, organized and participated actively in conferences, went to all the meetings, kept up his Washington and New York connections, and taught full-time through it all. After his retirement from the faculty of the University of Texas in 1985 the only thing different was that he no longer taught; he continued to publish books and articles and to secure funding for the Linguistics Research Center as he had done for so many years.
Lehmann was born June 23, 1916, in Surprise, Nebraska, and died August 1, 2007, in Austin, Texas. His father was a Lutheran minister, and the family language was German. His was, as he would later say, a family in which books and reading counted for a great deal. The family moved to Wisconsin while Lehmann was young, and he got his B.A. in humanities from Northwestern College in Watertown, Wisconsin, in 1936. In this German-English bilingual stronghold, he gained a European gymnasium background he later described as 'German and classical philology' (1980:183). From there, he went on to graduate study in German literature and Germanic linguistics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where he received M.A. and Ph.D. degrees in 1938 and 1941. It was in classes at the University of Wisconsin that he met his future wife, Ruth Preston Miller; they were married in 1940 and had two children, Terry and Sandra. Dr. Ruth Lehmann was an internationally recognized scholar of Celtic and Old English who ended her career as professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. She and Win made a powerful intellectual and scholarly union, besides being loving parents to their two children, one of whom, Terry, tragically preceded his father in death. After Win suffered a stroke his daughter, Sandie, cared for him devotedly until his death. Dr. Ruth Lehmann died in 2000.
Lehmann's later broad ken was clear already in his first semester courses at Wisconsin, which included courses on Milton, Homer, a survey of German literature, and the history of the German language, the last taught by the Balticist and Indo-Europeanist Alfred Senn. His later graduate work at Wisconsin ranged widely across languages, from Old Church Slavonic and Lithuanian to Old Irish (with Myles Dillon) to Sanskrit [End Page 613] and Old Persian. He also worked with Einar Haugen, whose fieldwork on Scandinavian in the region would lead to Lehmann's own pioneering work in sociolinguistics and bilingualism. Beginning with Morris Swadesh's time in the anthropology department, Lehmann spent 'hundreds of hours' working on Winnebago (Siouan, now known as Ho-Chunk or Hocak) with Chief Hamparika. None of this work, unfortunately, was ever published.
There were no linguistics departments as such in those days—the creation of departments of linguistics was a post-World War II development. If you were interested in things linguistic, you did your work in a language department with excursions into other language departments and English departments depending...