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  • From the Editor
  • Steven Franks

In addition to four interesting articles and four reviews of new books in our field, this issue contains a Reflections piece by me, examining the history and sociology of our organization. It also, sadly, includes two In Memoriam pieces for our dear friends and esteemed colleagues, Jens Nørgård-Sørensen and Charles Townsend. I knew both of these individuals well and am grieved at their loss. Jens was an active member of SLS, and we always found time to enjoy each other’s company at meetings. He was warm and kind, full of life and wit. Jens left us far too soon and will be sorely missed. Charlie was someone I have been so close to, and for so many years, that I feel justified in exploiting my editorial position to write in more personal terms about him and about the impact he had on my life.1

For me, Charlie wasn’t always Charlie, although now I cannot imagine calling him anything else. I started Russian in high school, back in 1969. I loved it but did not understand why. At the time I had no idea that one could just study the language; I thought one uses Russian to study history, literature, politics, and so forth. It was Charles Townsend who showed me that Russian could be an object of study in and of itself, and this insight changed my life. I first met my future mentor and lifelong friend at Indiana University’s summer Slavic language program, where he was teaching Level 7 (the dreaded “Russian Word-Formation” course) as he did for many years after. I was starting at Princeton in the fall and wanted to get some guidance about what to do with my Russian. Charlie enlightened me and later turned me on to Slavic linguistics. Back then, of course, “Professor Townsend” was very intimidating. He knew everything, I knew little, and his job seemed to be, to us students, to remind us repeatedly of this intellectual gulf. But as we got to know him, what we students gradually discovered about [End Page 173] Charlie was that inside he really was a big teddy bear. My wife Karen’s favorite adjective for Charlie was always “gallant”—not gállant as in “brave” or “heroic” but rather gallánt as in “chivalrous.” I on the other hand grew to see Charlie most of all as forthright: with me he typically spoke his mind, sometimes a bit too bluntly, but always kindly and with the best of intentions. The most apt description of Charlie that sticks in my mind, however, is as an “avuncular curmudgeon.”2 I think he loved to play that role, the crusty uncle, and indeed, maybe Charlie was waxing a bit curmudgeonly at the time. But his crustiness was just that— crust. To me at least, it has been his deep-down teddy-bear nature, that revealed itself most often. He watched my family form and grow, as I watched his. Charlie and his wife Janet were a solid rock in our lives, Karen’s and mine, and they both were incredibly kind and patient with my parents. I miss Charlie terribly. His decision to enter home hospice care took us all by surprise. No matter how conscientiously he tried to say his goodbyes and to let those who loved him see him off, we cannot help but be pained. Charlie was remarkably prepared, but I certainly wasn’t, and I doubt that any of his friends or family could have been either. He bravely embraced the inevitable. But for all us who loved him, he left a gaping hole in our worlds. Charlie was a big part in many lives, and still lives in our collective memories and in our collective hearts.

After Charlie died I wanted to preserve his memory in some lasting way and realized that SLS provides the perfect forum for this. So I worked with the board to create a new fund intended to honor him and to perpetuate his legacy. The Charles E. Townsend Memorial Fund recognizes young contributors to the field of Slavic linguistics by awarding a lifetime membership...


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pp. 173-175
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