Provost Groves announces passing of former Dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics

Today in an email to the Georgetown University community, Provost Robert Groves announced the passing of Professor Emeritus and former Dean of the School of Languages and Linguistics, Dr. James Alatis.

He also served as Distinguished Professor of Linguistics and Modern Greek and Senior Advisor to the Dean of Georgetown College for International Language Programs and Research.

Alatis was appointed Associate Dean of the School of Language and Linguistics (SLL) in 1966, and he served as Dean of the School from 1973 to 1994 when he retired from the position to focus on his role as Professor of Linguistics and Modern Greek.

He was also known for his support and leadership with the Georgetown University Round Table on Languages and Linguistics (GURT), a prominent international conference which continues to this day. He retired in 2012.

Outside of Georgetown in the earlier part of his career as Associate Dean, Alatis was the founder and first executive director of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). The mission of the association is “to advance professional expertise in English language teaching and learning for speakers of other languages worldwide”.

Under Alatis’s leadership, the organization grew from fewer than 400 members in 1968 to over 12,000 members when he stepped down two decades later.

In addition to serving as the President of the TESOL International Research Foundation (TIRF) Board, he also served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Joint National Committee for Languages and National Council for Languages and International Studies.

Assistant of Academic Affairs and fellow colleage Sonia Jacobson praised Alatis’s committment to language education in the Provost’s email.

“Throughout a long and distinguished career at the University spanning forty-six years, his passion and advocacy for greater prominence for and the benefits of language education were unwavering,” she wrote. “Thousands in the academic community and generations of students are indebted to him for his generosity of spirit and innumerable kindnesses of one of Georgetown’s true giants.”

Alatis has been recognized for his many contributions to Georgetown with the President’s Medal in 1994 and the Patrick Healy Award in 1995.

He passed away this past Saturday, Feb. 28, 2015 at the age of 88.

Photo: Georgetown University Archives

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