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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 
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« August 2014 »
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    In Memoriam: Emeritus Professor Richard Lawson (1919-2012)


    Born in San Francisco, Lawson lived a long life as a devoted husband, steadfast friend to many and scholar extraordinaire.

    He received a B.A. in German from the University of Oregon in 1941, but was soon caught up in World War II when he served with distinction as a navigator on multi-engine aircraft, often in sea rescue operations.  With an unexpected gift for mathematics he was later transferred to Texas as a navigation instructor in flight school.

    After the war he received an M.A. in German, also at the University of Oregon, and a Ph.D. in Germanic Linguistics in 1956 from UCLA. While a graduate student he met and married fellow student Eldene Balcome in 1950.  They were a close couple and Lawsome was immeasurable shaken by her death in 2004.  They had no children. He is survived by his brother Robert of Chico, California and four nephews and nieces.

    In 1953 he took a position as Instructor at Washington State University and in 1965 moved to San Diego State University where he had a notable career as Department Chair, Chair of the Humanities Division, and Assistant Graduate Dean.  In 1972 he was granted a CSU Trustees' Outstanding Professor Award. However, in 1976 with no advance notice, he received and accepted an invitation to become Chair of the German Department at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a highly ranked department indeed.  He remained there until his retirement in 1979, and returned San Diego to live out his life.

    Lawson was a prolific scholar with the widest range of interests born in German Literature and Linguistics. From 1953 as a graduate student to 1997, long after retirement, he  published nearly 150 articles, reviews, brief translations, and book chapters on subjects as diverse as "Love-Death Structures in the Works of Arthur Schnitzler" and "The Rule of St. Benedict in Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century Germany."

    He translated a lenthy Medieval manuscript from the German, edited 8 books, and himself wrote volumes on Günther Grass, Franz Kafka, Elias Canetti, and two on Edith Warton (she spoke and read German with ease), one published in Bonn and the other in New York.  He served as an editor for the journal Modern Austrian Literature and for the Ariadne Press.  He left a body of works equaled by very few faculty members at SDSU.

    Richard H. Lawson was a remarkable scholar, a man who deeply loved his wife Eldene and a faithful friend to those who were privileged to know him.


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