Albanian language was one of his main fields of research. His work on Albanian stressed the similarities between the Tosk and Gheg dialects.
Leonard Newmark (1929-2022) was one of the last surviving founding faculty members of the University of California, San Diego. Many commented that Leonard was the smartest and most curious person they had ever met. He peppered others with questions, showing an interest not only in their specialized area of knowledge, but also in the people themselves. Little was off limits and almost all subjects were of interest. His curiosity and fierce intelligence could be intimidating. He tempered his intensity with self-deprecation and a warm, reassuring smile. He was a Renaissance man who was seldom satisfied, especially with his own work. He pushed boundaries of commonly accepted beliefs and methodologies, challenging the status quo.
Born in rural Indiana to immigrant parents, he read voraciously. A child prodigy, he went to the University of Chicago at 15 and graduated from university at 18. He studied linguistics as a graduate student at Indiana University and joined the faculty at Ohio State University in 1954.
He was an early outspoken voice for what are now guiding principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion and championed the hiring of women faculty as well as the study of often overlooked languages. His strong advocacy for freedom of speech and academic freedom led him to leave Ohio State. After he left Ohio State, he returned to Indiana University as Associate Professor. In 1963, at age 34, he was invited to join the faculty as a full professor at the nascent University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Here, he founded the Linguistics Department, a burgeoning discipline, and served as Director of the Basic Language Program, the Center for Research in Language Acquisition, and the Program in American Language and Culture.
In addition to hiring the original faculty for the Linguistics Department, he worked with a handful of others to recruit the early social scientists in a variety of fields. Reflective of his wide-ranging interests, his closest friends included physicists, philosophers, anthropologists, and literary critics. His wide-ranging interests and prowess as an administrator led him to serve as acting chair of the Music and Visual Arts Departments, beyond serving twice as chair of the UCSD Linguistics Department.
Harvard University twice tried to lure Newmark to move to Cambridge, Massachusetts. For Leonard, the prestige of Harvard could not compete with the satisfaction of building a still embryonic university and the opportunity to shape the college system, the curriculum, and the interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning. He enjoyed serving on various university Senate Committees. Together with his colleague Roy Harvey Pearce, he rejected the original design of UCSD’s Central Library as too pedestrian, leading the firm’s namesake and principal architect, William Pereira, to take over and conceive of what has become the iconic symbol of the UCSD campus.
His three main fields of research were Albanian language, the history of English, and language acquisition. He championed an innovative naturalistic approach to language acquisition that relied heavily on sustained exposure to native speakers, technology, and sheltering the learner from the forces that can interfere with language acquisitions. He placed this approach into practice in UCSD’s Language Laboratory, an approach that shaped language teaching and language labs at many other institutions.
His research on Albanian stressed the similarities between the Tosk and Gheg dialects. His work heralding Standard Albanian fostered a sense of ethnic Albanian identity among Albanian speakers. In retirement, he produced the definitive Albanian-English Dictionary and created the rudiments of a reverse English-Albanian dictionary. In recognition of his efforts, he was made a member of the Albanian Academy of Sciences. After he retired from UCSD and became Professor Emeritus, he devoted himself full time to research.
Leonard’s passions included playing chess, word games, and early music on shawms, recorders, and sackbuts. He also found fulfillment listening, talking, traveling, and being with family.
Leonard met his spouse, Ruth Sylvia Newmark (née Broessler) while playing ping-pong when the two were students at Indiana University. Together, they charmed many of the early recruits to come to UCSD. They also worked together to foster international education. Leonard’s stewardship of the language programs at UCSD provided teaching opportunities for scores of international students and scholars and Ruth co-founded the International Center at UCSD.
Leonard is survived by Ruth (his wife of 70 years), his children, Katya Newmark and Mark Newmark, his son-in-law Matthew Costello, and his grandchildren Danya Costello and Justin Costello.