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  • In Memoriam, Howard Paul McKaughan, 1922–2013
  • Robert Blust

On the morning of Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013, Howard Paul McKaughan, founder of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai‘i and early member of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, died peacefully in his sleep at the age of 91. Three days before his death, he wrote this final message that Byron W. Bender forwarded to several of his former colleagues and students on December 1:

Dear Family and Personal Friends,

I have asked Charlotte [daughter] to update you on my medical condition. I have been hospitalized for several days for a terminal condition brought on by age and stomach problems following a heart valve replacement.

I confessed my sins before God and man and have asked for His forgiveness, which He has given. All praise to God!!

I know that I am in the Lord’s hands and am so grateful for the personal relationship I have with so many of you and with my precious family. God bless you in the life you live.

Very truly yours,

Howard McKaughan

For someone who was so genuinely thankful for the life he had been given, the timing of Howard’s departure could not have been more perfect.1

Together with his twin brother Herbert John, Howard McKaughan was born on July 5, 1922, in Owensmouth (now Canoga Park), California, the youngest of 6 children (5 boys and a girl). His parents, Paul and Edith McKaughan, were farmers, and as a boy he lived in Santa Monica and Canoga Park, working on his family farm from a young age. The McKaughans were devout Christians, and as soon as Howard was able he began to attend Christ Community Church with his parents and siblings, a formative influence in his life.

After graduating from Santa Monica high school in 1940, he attended UCLA, where he was a drum major in the marching band, and reportedly had a chance to perform at the Rose Bowl during the difficult years of World War II. Soon after receiving a BA from UCLA in [End Page 176] 1943, he moved to Dallas to pursue a degree at Dallas Theological Seminary, taking only a short break from his studies during the Christmas holidays to return to California to marry his high school sweetheart, Barbara (Bobie) Jean Budroe, in Christ Community Church on Christmas Day, 1943. The McKaughans lived in Dallas for the next three years, during which time, in addition to studying for his theological degree, Howard worked among the youth of the city, some of whom continued to correspond with him into their old age as an enduring expression of their appreciation for the influence he had had on their lives.

During this period, their oldest daughter, Edith, was born in California. Following his graduation from Dallas Theological Seminary with a Masters of Theology in 1946, and a brief course of study in the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) at the University of Oklahoma at Norman under the tutelage of Kenneth Pike, the McKaughans (now grown to three) departed for Mexico to work with the Chatino Indians in the southern part of the state of Oaxaca as members of the Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL. In connection with their ultimate goal of producing a Bible translation in Chatino, they developed a writing system for the language, and coauthored a Chatino–Spanish dictionary (McKaughan and McKaughan 1951).

According to his daughter Charlotte, during the 17 years from 1946 to 1963, the McKaughans worked for SIL, first in Mexico, and then in the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and New Guinea, and during this time their family grew to include five daughters: Charlotte and Patricia, arriving in Mexico to join their older sister, Edith, and Barbara and Judith, born last in the Philippines. Throughout his very busy life, Howard also found time to return to school to advance his formal education, receiving an MA from Cornell University in 1952, and a PhD in linguistics from the same university in 1957 under the direction of Charles F. Hockett.

In 1953, while the McKaughans were living in Ithaca during Howard’s studies at Cornell, SIL established a new branch in...


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