May 31, 2006

Congratulations to Joseph Aoun

Boston, MA, 7:00 a.m., Wednesday
Joseph Aoun, the highly successful Dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern Califonia, will soon become the first Professor of Linguistics to assume the top position (president or chancellor) in a major university in the USA.

He has just been named the next president of Northeastern University here in Boston. Congratulations to both him and Northeastern.

Aoun earned his PhD in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at MIT, and has served for six years as a dean. He is noted for his an excellent record in fundraising.

Further details in the Boston Globe.

Aoun is the first Professor of Linguistics to become a university president in this country, but not the first holder of a PhD in linguistics. The Swedish-born Nils Hasselmo earned a PhD from the Department of Linguistics at Harvard University in 1961, and later served from 19891997 as the president of the University of Minnesota. His university posts, however, were as a professor of Scandinavian languages and literatures. And Father Lawrence Biondi, S.J., who earned an MA in linguistics (1966) and a PhD in sociolinguistics (under Roger Shuy, in 1975) from Georgetown University, and since 1987 has been the very successful president of St Louis University, a Jesuit university of moderate size (11,000 students) in Missouri — and the oldest university west of the Mississippi. Father Biondi has been active in fields other than linguistics (notably theology and university administration) since earning his doctorate.

Other high-ranked linguists who have held US university administrative positions have not been permanently appointed at ranks higher than that attained by the late Victoria Fromkin, who had the title Vice Chancellor for Graduate Programs at UCLA in addition to being graduate dean. It should be noted that Sheila Blumstein served for a while as Interim President at Brown University; Susan Steele was vice provost at the University of Connecticut and then provost at Mills College; Samuel Jay Keyser was an associate provost at MIT; a significant number of professors of linguistics have held deanships (probably a dozen or more); and Alfred Bloom, the current president of Swarthmore College, started at Swarthmore as an assistant professor in psychology and linguistics and is thus certainly an honorary linguist (though his degrees are in adjacent fields: a BA from Princeton in Romance languages and literatures and a PhD from Harvard in psychology and social relations).

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at May 31, 2006 07:09 AM