In Memoriam: Timothy Francis McNamara

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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 was 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 held a memorial event celebrating Tim’s life and career, it can be viewed via this link. 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