In memoriam: Dean Stoddard Worth, professor of Slavic languages

Professor emeritus Dean Stoddard Worth, 88, died after a long illness on Feb. 29 in Lititz, Pennsylvania. He retired from UCLA in 1994 after 37 years of service in the then Department of Slavic Langu

Dean Stoddard Worth

ages and Literature, now the Department of Slavic, East European and Eurasian Languages and Cultures. He was best known for his scholarship in areas related to the Russian language, its structure, history and literary tradition. But his earliest publications also presented ground-breaking research on Kamchadal, one of the indigenous languages of northeastern Siberia.

Born in Brooklyn in 1927, Professor Worth spent most of his early life in New England, attending the Phillips Exeter Academy and Dartmouth College, where he earned a B.A. He continued his studies at the École nationale des langues orientales vivantes in Paris, where he was awarded his diploma in 1952, concurrently earning his Certificat d’études superieurs at the University of Paris (Sorbonne).

He continued his studies under the mentorship of Roman Jakobson at Harvard University, where he received his M.A. (1953) and Ph.D. (1956) in Slavic languages and literatures.  In 1957 he joined the faculty at UCLA, where he spent the rest of his academic career, advancing to full professorship in 1965 and overseeing the growth of the department into one of the country’s preeminent centers of Slavic studies.

His research included some of the earliest exploration of computer-based machine translation, funded by the RAND Corporation. In addition to publishing two bibliographies authoritative in their fields, a monograph on the history of the study of the Russian language and about 200 scholarly articles, he also promoted colleagues’ work as editor of the International Journal of Slavic Linguistics and Poetics and through the many conferences he organized. 

He also co-edited a medieval Slavic text, the Zadonshchina, together with his mentor Jakobson. He was one of the earliest American scholars to visit Russia during the post-Stalin era, and he promoted international scholarly exchange, both by inviting Russian visitors to his department at UCLA and into his home, and through his chairmanship of the International Committee of Slavists. He developed warm relationships, especially with Czech scholars, some of whom he aided in various ways after the Soviet invasion of 1968.

He was respected by his students and won many fellowships and awards from the John S. Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the International Research and Exchanges Board, the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities and others. In1992 he received the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Scholarship from American Association for Teachers Slavic and East European Languages.

In addition to serving as Slavic Department chair for several terms, he chaired the Council on Academic Personnel in the UCLA Academic Senate and the Advisory Committee of the Center for Russian and East European Studies (now the Center for European and Russian Studies).  In 1984 he was awarded the inaugural College Prize from the College of Letters and Science for outstanding achievement in teaching, research and university service.

He was a Fellow and advisory board member of the Kennan Center for Advanced Russian Studies, and a consultant to the Rand Corporation, the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the Social Sciences Research Council.

While his colleagues put together a volume in his honor to celebrate his 65th birthday, his former students, most of whom now hold academic positions of their own, honored him with a festschrift on the occasion of his 70th birthday and 40th anniversary of his academic career at UCLA.

Colleagues say Worth was known for his hospitality, resourcefulness and unfailing courtesy, generosity, integrity and fairness. He loved the outdoors and enjoyed introducing foreign visitors to the wonders of California’s deserts and mountains.

He is survived by his wife Emily, a niece and two nephews.

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