News from Brian Joseph: our colleague and dear friend Ilse Lehiste, Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at Ohio State University, died on Christmas Day, of complications from pneumonia.
Ilse's accomplishments were enormous and formidable, in a wide range of areas of scholarship and research — instrumental phonetics, historical linguistics, prosody, poetics, Estonian studies, Serbo-Croatian studies, Germanic philology, for a start. (She was also a polyglot, picking up new languages throughout her life, building on the Estonian, German, and Russian of her young days.) She was duly showered with honors, including the presidency of the Linguistic Society of America.
A more formal death notice is in preparation for the LSA; I'll post it when it's finished. In the meantime, this is the link to her Ohio State homepage, which has a lot of information. (The Ohio State server is down at the moment, unfortunately.) Inexplicably, she has no Wikipedia page.
Now, a few very personal remarks.
Ilse recruited me from Illinois for Ohio State in 1969 and oversaw rapid tenure for me and promotion to full professor. She immediately became close friends with me, my wife (Ann Daingerfield Zwicky), and our daughter (Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky), and later my partner (Jacques Transue). Later, with Elizabeth Traugott at Stanford, she helped to engineer a visiting professorship for me at Stanford, so that I divided my time between the two universities from 1985 through 1998 (when I moved to Stanford full-time). Along the way, Ilse spent time with me and my family almost every week, with some regular events, like Christmas Eve at her house — having a celebratory dinner, exchanging gifts, reading the Christmas story in Latin, and singing carols in English and German. Wonderful times, mixing the social and the academic.
I wish I'd gotten her to assemble a collection of her self-deprecating Estonian jokes (jokes about Estonians, not jokes in Estonian, though I'm sure she could tell them in several languages).
For a charming glimpse of Ilse, here's a YouTube video of her playing the piano in Tartu, Estonia, in 2008.
(Sadly, Brian's news came right on the heels of my posting on my blog about some deaths of 2010.)