In Memoriam

Timothy Francis McNamara
Jon Henner
Kimberly L. Geeslin
Bernard Dov Spolsky
Jan Blommaert
Maggie Reynolds
Dr. Kathryn Anne Davis

Timothy Francis McNamara

It is with profound sadness that the American Association for Applied Linguistics announces the passing of former AAAL President, Professor Emeritus Timothy Francis McNamara, on September 15, 2023, after a lengthy illness. Tim was born in Melbourne on April 11th, 1949. He earned his PhD at the University of Melbourne and became a Professor and Redmond Barry Distinguished Professor in the University of Melbourne’s School of Languages and Linguistics. There, Tim helped to establish what became a thriving, internationally recognized program in applied linguistics. He successfully supervised several dozen PhD students, many of whom in turn became prominent leaders in applied linguistics. Tim retired in 2018, and a festschrift was published in 2019 in his honour. He was a gifted and generous scholar, mentor, speaker, and leader, admired around the world for his brilliant and ground-breaking contributions and his deep compassion, intellect, wit, and humanity. 

Tim’s scholarly interests and publications were prolific, interdisciplinary, and far-ranging––from Rasch measurement and social and ethical dimensions of language testing and assessment, to issues of subjectivity, identity, and language, to Derrida and Rothko, and the experiences of Holocaust survivors, migrants, and asylum-seekers. Indeed, his well-cited books and other monograph titles reflect this incredible breadth and also his evolution as a scholar: Issues in Second-Language Learning: General and Particular (with Quinn, 1988), Language, Learning and Community (with Candlin, 1989), Measuring Second Language Performance (1996), Dictionary of Language Testing (with Davies et al., 1999), Language Testing (2000; with subsequent Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean editions), Experimenting with Uncertainty: Essays in Honour of Alan Davies (with Elder et al., 2001), Language Testing: The Social Dimension (with Roever, 2006), Fairness, Justice and Language Assessment (with Knoch and Fan, 2019), and Language and Subjectivity (2019). His newest book, Paul and Paula: A Story of Separation, Survival and Belonging, is a “lyrical, poignant account [that] combines memoir, biography and history to explore the enduring influence of one elderly Holocaust survivor and the intergenerational impact of the famed Dunera” [Jewish refugees] (to be released by Monash University Press in December 2023). Tim’s commitment to fairness and social justice permeated both his work and his personal life. 

Tim’s articles appeared in an equally wide and impressive range of journals: Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, Applied Linguistics Review, Applied Linguistics, Australian Review of Applied Linguistics, English for Specific Purposes, EUROSLA Yearbook, International Journal of Applied Linguistics, International Journal of Medical Education, International Journal of Speech, Journal of Advanced Nursing, Journal of Applied Measurement, Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, Journal of Language and Social Psychology, Journal of Sociolinguistics, Language and Intercultural Communication, Language and Language Education, Language and the Law, Language Assessment Quarterly, Language Learning, Language Policy, Language Teaching, Language Testing, Measurement, Modern Language Journal, Papers in Language Testing and Assessment, Revue Française de Linguistique Appliquée, and TESOL Quarterly. He was also a committed editorial board member and special-issue editor of many prestigious journals, and for years was an editorial director of the Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, the flagship journal of AAAL. He published numerous chapters in important edited books as well. 

His scholarly contributions earned him many honours and distinctions, including, from most recent, his induction as a member of the Order of Australia (2021), Fellow of the British Academy of Social Sciences (2017), Best Article Award from the International Language Testing Association (2017), Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Language Testing Association (2015), Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities (2010), and winner of the award for best book published in the field of language testing (2006-2008) presented by Sage and the International Language Testing Association. He was Academic Program Chair of the 2014 International Association of Applied Linguistics (AILA) Congress in Brisbane and was elected as an Honorary Member of AILA in 2019 for his outstanding contributions to applied linguistics internationally. Other significant roles and honours included serving as President of the International Language Testing Association in 1998 and as Vice President of AAAL and Conference Chair for the 2017 Portland conference (and then President and Past President). The 2017 conference program featured outstanding invited colloquia, plenary speakers, and other presentations foregrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion across the many strands in AAAL, especially in relation to gender and sexuality. 

Tim was invited to many universities around the world, where he made lifelong friends, mentored graduate students, gave brilliant seminars and courses, and pursued his passion not only for applied linguistics, but also art, literature, and history. He had visiting appointments at Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania State University, Sophia University, Stockholm University, Teachers College, Columbia University, Tel Aviv University, Temple University Japan, Thames Valley University, University of California at Berkeley, University of California at Los Angeles, University College London (Institute of Education), University of London (Birkbeck), University of Ottawa, University of Toronto (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education), and University of Vienna. Among all of these cities, he was particularly fond of London, where he had worked and studied earlier in his career.

Apart from his professional work, Tim savoured long conversations over meals and walks with his friends in cities around the world. He also cherished time at his second home in Sorrento, Australia, where he invited friends and enjoyed the beautiful seaside and garden. He will be buried in a private ceremony in the Sorrento Community Cemetery on September 27, 2023.  The following day, on September 28, 2023 at 6 pm local time, The University of Melbourne will hold a memorial event celebrating Tim’s life and career, open to the public in this link. (A recording may be made available at a later time.) He is mourned by his beloved son Daniel, Daniel's wife Ayes, and their baby, Rowan Siddhartha McNamara; his brothers John and Mick and their families; his former partner Marie-Thérèse Jensen; his “soulmate” Lillian Nativ; his large academic family; and his many friends and lovers. The legacy of Tim's academic, professional, and personal life is truly global and his loss is being deeply felt around the world. 

Lovingly submitted by Patsy Duff and Merrill Swain, Past Presidents of AAAL 

Jon Henner 

AAAL recently learned of the passing of Jon Henner. We are grateful to Suresh Canagarajah for composing the following tribute to Jon’s remarkable life and contributions to applied linguistics.

Jon Henner’s wife, Emily Carrigan, announced on Twitter that Jon passed away on August 14, 2023, at 7:16 am. She observed that he “has been giving the finger to cancer for the last 6 years.” For many who knew him, that metaphor is an apt tribute to Jon’s whole academic career. He has been giving the finger to ableist linguistics to empower disabled scholars and students in education. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind when confronting injustice, especially on behalf of the Deaf and Autistic communities he was part of. His scholarship and teaching embodied his multiple disability identities.

Jon would have been 41 years old this coming November 26th. He grew up in the Chicago area and attended John Hersey High School. According to his friend and collaborator Octavian Robinson, Jon had diverse interests and hobbies such as motorcycles, baking, weightlifting, poetry, video games, ballet, and ice hockey. He liked to collect interesting and unique lamps. He loved good food and enjoyed hanging out with his friends. He was very fond of authentic pho. He had a very wide range of interests and tastes in popular culture. He was a devoted, loving, and involved father for his three children who are 16, 8, and 3 years old. He was fondly remembered by many across his lifespan as someone who would be anyone’s friend, who had eclectic interests, but who was also no nonsense and pragmatic.

Jon briefly attended Gallaudet University as an undergraduate and then transferred to Southeastern Illinois University, where he was expelled from the deaf education program for challenging the faculty on their deficit views of deaf children. He ended up majoring in Philosophy for his B.A., which he completed in 2005. He then earned an M.S. in Psychology from Walden University in 2008, with an emphasis in Cognition and the Deaf. His Ed.D. is from Boston University in Developmental Studies, completed in 2016. His advisor was Robert "Bob" Hoffmeister, in whose honor Jon co-edited a book of essays, titled Discussing Bilingualism in Deaf Children (Routledge, 2021). He began working in 2016 as Assistant Professor in Professions in Deafness, in Specialized Education Services, School of Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro. In 2022, he was tenured and promoted to Associate Professor.

Though his professional life was brief, he left a lasting impact on disability studies. Perhaps the work that introduced him to the wider linguistics and education community was his co-authored article on “Crip Linguistics.” The article with Octavian Robinson, titled “Unsettling Languages, Unruly Bodyminds: Imaging a Crip Linguistics,” attracted more than 2500 downloads in the online repository PsyArXiv Preprints, before finding a journal. Jon had chronicled on Twitter the travails in publishing this manuscript. Many respected journals rejected it, saying that they didn’t find it relevant for linguistics. They thus proved the point the article was making about the biases in the discipline against the concerns of those who don’t use speech and language for their communication. It was eventually published in April of 2023 in the Journal of Critical Study of Communication and Disability, with a new subtitle “A Crip Linguistics Manifesto” .

The article defiantly proclaims: “When someone languages outside of what people think is normal, others can think they are bad with language, or are not as smart as someone else. No one is actually ‘bad with language.’ We want to help people understand that no language is bad. It is okay to want to change your language use if it will make you feel better. No one should make you feel badly about your language. We need a bigger and more flexible understanding of what language is.” 

Together with this paper and his public scholarship, Jon had a tremendous influence on linguistics by suggesting disability as a category of analysis and analytical framework. To further this mission, Jon was generous in accepting invitations to speak in the AAAL convention in 2023. Because of his ongoing cancer treatment, he participated virtually. He was the opening speaker for the colloquium titled “Disability Studies Questions Applied Linguistics” and contributed to other panels as a respondent. He was also a member of the AAAL Ad Hoc committee for Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (JEDI) and made trenchant recommendations for disability justice in the association and for greater accessibility at its annual conventions.

Jon has left his mark on Deaf Studies and Deaf Education. In particular with regard to Deaf Studies, his writing generated new avenues in conversations about linguistic human rights, language and power, and resonances with disability and dysfluency studies. His scholarship prompted a reevaluation of certain boundaries and "given" truths that Deaf Studies has long held about its object of inquiry. Jon wrote with others on a variety of subjects like signed language interpreting, barriers confronted by deaf academics, deaf epistemology, and neoliberal critiques of the university as far as signed languages/deafness were concerned. 

Jon's 2018 paper with Robinson in Disability Studies Quarterly on “cripping the University,", a neoliberal critique of the modern academy's relationship with deafness and signed languages, is one of the most widely taught and assigned essays in Deaf Studies and Sign Language courses. Not just in the United States but across the globe, many have found it a useful rhetorical tool to push back against the erasure of deaf people from knowledge production about signed languages and deaf people in general. Their 2017 paper on deaf epistemology in Disability and Society was the first seed of what would eventually become their Crip Linguistics framework. 

Outside of Deaf Studies, Jon had a major impact on Deaf Education. He is known for his critical work on language deprivation in deaf children, and deaf children’s language learning. Examining how different factors impact the development of language and cognitive skills in deaf and hard of hearing, he looks at how to best assess and measure the language skills of deaf and hard of hearing populations. He has also published on the experiences that deaf academics have in academia and how professors, researchers, and scientists interact with deaf people.

Jon has had an impact as a teacher. His students often said that he inspired them to pursue research and intellectual curiosity. His students have admired his charisma and knowledge. Here are two anonymous student comments in

  • “Dr. Henner was a wonderful teacher. He gives you opportunities to do well and succeed in his class, take advantage of those. His class is tough, but if you do all of the assignments and get them in on time you should pass with flying colors.”
  • “Henner was a great teacher for a class that can be very boring. He made topics that were dull fun by being sarcastic but still professional. He was overall a ‘refreshing’ Professor by being different from the normal: cursing a little, being a smart-butt every now and again, but at the same time being respectful to others."

Jon also shaped early career scholars. He had a reputation for always offering a helping hand and encouraging words to other scholars, particularly those new to academia. He believed that the senior, more established scholars owed it to those who came after to pull them up. Robinson observes, “I cannot count how many people he has nurtured, mentored, and otherwise supported in the eight short years since he finished his doctorate.” He co-authored with some emerging scholars to guide them through the process of writing a publishable paper. He instilled in them the confidence to pursue academic careers and continue publishing their work. Those individuals have gone on to publish while building their respective careers.

Jon’s voice has resounded within the scholarly community through his passionate and insightful posts on social media, such as the following words in a poster for a lecture: “How you language is beautiful. Don’t let anyone tell you your languaging is wrong. Your languaging is the story of your life." Or an unceremonious tweet that is distinctively Jon: “There. Is. Motherfucking. Dignity. In. All. Ways. Of. Languaging.”

Kimberly L. Geeslin

AAAL is saddened to share that longtime AAAL member Kimberly L. Geeslin (1971-2023) passed away unexpectedly in January at the age of 51. Kim was born May 13, 1971, in Stanford, California, to William and Eileen Brown Geeslin, and explained her delightful sociolects as a product of “being raised by Texans in New Hampshire.” Kim graduated with her B.A. from the University of New Hampshire, where her father was Professor of mathematics, and she received her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees (Hispanic Linguistics) from the University of Arizona. In the Fall of 1999, Kim joined the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University (IU) where she remained throughout her career. At IU, she won multiple career teaching awards, chaired more than 20 doctoral dissertations, and served in numerous impactful administrative and leadership positions within her department and across the university. Most recently, she was named Vice Provost for Faculty and Academic Affairs in December 2022 after serving as Associate Vice Provost for five years. 

Kim was a world-renowned scholar, specializing in research at the intersection of second language acquisition and sociolinguistics. She wrote nine books and over 85 article-length publications, gave dozens of keynote lectures and plenaries, and wrote several seminal state-of-the-field reviews that are and will remain canon for those researching Hispanic linguistics, sociolinguistics, and second language acquisition. Her leadership style was warm, inclusive, and unfailingly kind. She saw possible paths forward when others could not, identified needs and fiercely advocated for meaningful support systems, most notably for under supported and underrepresented colleagues, and demystified the bureaucracy of academia, returning it to a joyful and inspiring space to work. Kim modeled a new type of leadership— one where you could advance and lead and have hobbies and joy outside of work. She always asked about and was genuinely interested in how you were doing as a person, encouraged, and celebrated personal as well as professional wins, and frequently shared anecdotes from her non-academic sides of life, as well. 

Kim is survived by her husband of 30 years, Sean McGuire— whom she met during an undergraduate study abroad experience in Granada, Spain— their two teenage children, Logan, and Hayden; her mother, Eileen; her sister, Melissa; and her mother-in-law, Patty. 

Kim had been a member of AAAL since 1996, when she joined as a graduate student. At the annual conference, she was a frequent presenter in invited and competitive colloquia and papers. She always attended the presentations of colleagues as well as current and former students, provided razor-sharp and encouraging feedback (often with her signature hair tuck behind her ears), served as the voice of reason, inspiration, and humor in editorial board meetings, and caught up with former students turned friends over an IPA at the bar or during a treadmill run in the hotel gym. She will be remembered for her brilliance, but even more so for the incomparable way she connected and encouraged people, advocated for the creation of opportunities for junior and underrepresented scholars, was fully present with each person with whom she spoke, and brought out the best in everyone she met. 

Her colleagues and students are committed to honoring her legacy in the professional and personal realms. We invite you to share a memory of Kim here, and to join us in Portland for a run/walk in celebration of her life.

Bernard Dov Spolsky

The American Association for Applied Linguistics is deeply saddened to announce that Professor Bernard Dov Spolsky passed away on August 20, 2022. He was surrounded by family in Jerusalem. Our condolences go to the Spolsky, Amaru, Sterne, Thomas, and Wulkan families in this time of great loss. Bernard was a founding father and a seminal voice in several subfields of applied linguistics, including language policy, language testing, second language learning, sociolinguistics, and linguistic landscape. Born in New Zealand in 1932, he completed his BA and master’s degrees in New Zealand and went on to work as a high school teacher in Australia, and later received his Ph.D. in Linguistics from the Université de Montréal in Canada. He took his first academic position in 1961 as an Assistant Professor of Education at McGill University, also in Canada. In 1964, he moved to the United States for a position at Indiana University and eventually became Assistant, Associate, and then Full Professor at the University of New Mexico. In 1980, he relocated to Israel and became a Professor at Bar-Ilan University and Director of its Language Policy Research Center. With Professor Elana Shohamy of Tel Aviv University, he developed the first language education policy in Israel in 1996. With Professor Tamar Levin, also of Tel Aviv University, he conducted an exemplary 1998-2002 national study on academic achievement of immigrants in Israel. He frequently traveled internationally as consultant and researcher, spending many times as a visiting scholar in Washington DC at the National Foreign Language Center and collaborating with the Center for Applied Linguistics. He retired officially in 2000, and as Professor Emeritus at Bar-Ilan University he continued making vital contributions to the field, participating in projects and shaping ideas with his many writings. His contributions and achievements in language testing garnered him the Cambridge/ILTA Distinguished Achievement Award in 2005. All along his 22 years in retirement Professor Spolsky remained the prodigiously prolific and influential writer he always was. His most recent publications include the book The Languages of the Jews: A Sociolinguistic History (2014, with Cambridge University Press) and a study of the semiotics of public signage (2020, in Linguistic Landscape), and two more titles which appeared this year: a masterful discussion of individual language advocates and managers (2022, in Language Policy), and the important book Rethinking Language Policy (2022, with Edinburgh University Press). Professor Spolsky served the profession tirelessly, including as editor-in-chief of Applied Linguistics (1979-1986) and as co-founder, with Elana Shohamy, of Language Policy and first sole editor-in-chief of this journal (2002-2007). He was President of TESOL International Association (1978-1979) and ILTA, the International Association of Language Testers (1994-1995). He held several offices at AILA, the Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée or International Association of Applied Linguistics. He also served AAAL most generously as Secretary Treasurer (1977-1980) and he was a regular presenter and attendee at the Annual Conference. He was a mentor, friend, and supporter to many AAAL members. Bernard Dov Spolsky was a visionary scholar, an engaged public intellectual, and an invaluable human being. He is sorely missed, and his legacy will live on.

Jan Blommaert

AAAL is saddened to hear of the passing of Jan Blommaert on January 7, 2021. Dr. Blommaert was Professor of Language, Culture and Globalization, and Director of the Babylon Center for the Study of Superdiversity, at Tilburg University. He was a frequent presenter at AAAL and a plenary speaker in 2008—and a friend, colleague, and mentor to many AAAL members. His Tilburg colleague Sjaak Kroon summarizes well the deep loss to our field: “Jan was an international powerhouse, a social activist and at the same time a good, committed, solidary and honest colleague, always willing to help, advise and cooperate but also always ready to contribute his questions, doubts, and critique – asked as well as unasked” (read the full announcement here). He is survived by his wife Pika, and his sons Frederik and Alexander. 

Maggie Reynolds

"The Linguistic Society of America has announced the death of Maggie Reynolds, who retired recently as Executive Director after 30 years of service. She also played an important the early days of AAAL. As founding secretary-treasurer, I depended on her advice in setting up the Association, and she helped us organize our annual meetings during the years when we were sheltered by the LSA. She was a warm and friendly person as well as an ideal and efficient professional in the running of academic societies and associations."
Bernard Spolsky

Dr. Kathryn Anne Davis
Dr. Kathryn Anne Davis passed away on Sunday, August 16, 2020.  She was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on December 15, 1949, to Floyd Edward Davis Sr. and Marian Jernigan.  She was preceded in death by her parents.  She is survived by five siblings, including Karyl Marlow, Floyd Davis Jr., Karla Nyikes, Karyn Gandenberger, and Kenneth Davis, and numerous nieces and nephews.  Dr. Davis was an accomplished, innovative, and widely respected scholar whose work contributed to the educational and policy decisions made on behalf of language minority students.  She attended Eastern Michigan University, where she earned a B.A. degree in English and a teaching credential. She earned a masters degree in Linguistics at the University of Leeds and a PhD in Education at Stanford University.  As a high school teacher and university English instructor, she taught in the U.S., Luxembourg, and China. She began her career as a university professor in the School of Education at the University of Delaware.  She joined the Department of Second Language Studies at the University of Hawai‘i at Mãnoa in 1992 where in addition to teaching, she directed the Center for Second Language Research and received several prestigious grants, including two Fulbright Fellowships. Her scholarship and teaching focused on the sociopolitical nature of language policies and language practices, particularly as it relates to enhancing the rights of language minority populations.  She published books, journal articles and chapters focused on multilingualism, language and gender, indigenous and immigrant language education, and transformative schooling.  She was among the first scholars to advocate for and articulate an engaged perspective on language policy and practice that is critical, collaborative and led by members of minority communities.  Dr. Davis is beloved by her many students who are continuing her work as they promote the rights of language minority populations throughout the world.  She retired from the University of Hawai‘i in 2017.

An intimate celebration of her life will take place in the fall.  Family and friends ask that donations in her memory be made to the UH Mānoa Mauiakama Summer Hawaiian Language Immersion Program (contact: or the Dolores Huerta Foundation (

In closing, the following is a tribute to Dr. Davis, written by Laiana Wong, who benefitted greatly from her mentoring while he was a junior faculty member at the Kawaihuelani Center for Hawaiian Language at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.

Luʻuluʻu Mānoa i ka ua nui
Welo ke aloha i ka ʻōnohi
Aia ka helena o ka hoapili
Ke ala o ke kino o ka hoʻi ʻole mai
Aloha ē! Aloha ē!