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  • In MemoriamRichard Bernard McGinn, Jr., 1939–2018
  • Robert Blust

On the morning of March 26, 2018 Richard Bernard McGinn, Jr. passed away at O'Bleness Memorial Hospital in Athens, Ohio, watched over by family and friends. With his passing we have lost a scholar who had a lifetime commitment to the Austronesian languages of insular Southeast Asia, a talented fieldworker, a lively and enthusiastic teacher, a skilled administrator and facilitator, a friend and colleague with an irrepressible sense of humor, and a committed social activist in his retirement years.

Richard McGinn ("Dick" to his many friends) was born December 23, 1939, in Spokane, Washington, the second of five sons. After graduation from Gonzaga Preparatory School in 1957 he attended Gonzaga University, where he earned a Bachelor's degree in English and Psychology in 1961, and a Master's degree in English in 1966 (apparently conferred after most of his work for it had been completed in 1963). Like many others of his generation Dick's interest in non-Western languages began when he joined the Peace Corps. After initial field training in Hawai'i, he was off to the Philippines, where he worked from 1963 to 1966 at Los Baños in Laguna Province, renowned for its hot springs and the world-class International Rice Research Institute. At the termination of his service as a volunteer, Dick spent a year in Europe, starting with six months of language study in Germany from 1966–1967, then twelve weeks of language study in France in 1967, and, finally, a twelve-week tour of Italy, England, and Ireland.

The lure of the Peace Corps—its idealism and its opportunities for language study—then drew him back as an administrator, first as a Language Coordinator for the Peace Corps/Philippines training program at Stanford University in the summer of 1967, after which he rose quickly to the status of Country Director of the Peace Corps/Philippines training program at Hilo, Hawai'i, from 1967–1968. After five years of exploring the world, he evidently felt the need to return to academia to "finish" what he had begun, and in the Fall of 1968 he was admitted to the PhD program in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Hawai'i, where he began to focus on the study of Tagalog with the founder of the department, Professor Howard P. McKaughan.

Academic details of this period are not completely clear, but one thing is: during this time Dick found his pot of gold at the end of the rainbow when he met his future wife, Judy Rae Brooks, and they were married in January 1970. According to department records at the University of Hawai'i, by the Spring of that year Dick had changed advisors to Donald M. Topping, as his study of Tagalog was not progressing as he wished. He remained in the PhD program through the Spring semester, 1972, and then left without a [End Page 496] degree when he accepted a two-year Junior Fulbright teaching appointment which took him and Judy to the University of Sriwijaya in Palembang, South Sumatra, Indonesia. From 1974 to 1976 they remained in Indonesia, where Dick served as Director of the Pertamina English Language Institute in Jakarta. Then, in 1976, his taste of the "real world" having been satisfied once again, he returned to the PhD program that he had left behind four years earlier.

By 1976 Dick had a new focus in linguistics: the little-known Rejang language of southwest Sumatra. Unlike Tagalog, which had already been studied for much of the twentieth century, Rejang offered the prospect of genuine field research and original descriptive contributions, and this was evidently very much to his liking. Rejang was not completely untouched, as the South African anthropologist and sociologist Mervyn Jaspan (b. 1926) had preceded Dick to this corner of Sumatra, and published a collection of texts in the traditional Ka-Ga-Nga script (Jaspan 1964). In addition, following Jaspan's death in 1975 his manuscript Rejang dictionary was brought to fruition through the good offices of Petrus Voorhoeve, a Dutch government linguist (taalambtenaar) who had represented Sumatra at the end of the Dutch colonial...


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