The American Name Society is very sad to report the death of one of our cherished members, Professor Dwan Shipley. Dwan passed away on the 12th of February 2016 after battling a long-term illness. An expert in anthroponymy, toponymy, and the preservation of indigenous languages of the Pacific Northwest, Dwan was a faculty member of the Linguistics Department at Western Washington University (WWU). In a recent interview featured in the Western Front, retired WWU Linguistics Director, Rudolf Weiss, stated that Dwan’s combined passion for people and languages is the reason why so many WWU students picked linguistics as their major field of study. According to Dr. Shaw Gynan, a fellow Linguistics Professor at WWU, Dwan’s devotion to academic excellence was a source of perpetual inspiration for both students and colleagues alike. “One of the things I loved most about Professor Shipley was his office,” Gynan revealed in an email interview with the Western Front. “It was a scholar’s den, filled to the rafters with references.”
It was exactly that rare combination of intelligence and kindness that made Dwan such a cherished colleague and friend within the ANS family. As former ANS President Donna Lillian shared, “He was a scholar and a gentleman […] He welcomed new and returning members alike with his kind and supportive presence, and I was proud to count him among my ANS friends.” Similar sentiments were echoed by the current ANS Vice President, Dorothy Dodge Robbins, who wrote, “I always looked forward to seeing Dwan at our gatherings. He was a great onomastician and a genuinely decent human being.”
Indeed, at a time when academia can feel very cold and uninviting, Dwan’s gentle spirit and sincere warmth were a welcomed and powerful reminder of what true integrity and strength are. As the current ANS President, Iman Nick, said upon receiving the news of Dwan’s death, “I felt sick to my stomach when WWU told me what had happened. He was always so incredibly generous with his time and his knowledge. He was the kind of person who made everyone around him feel completely at ease. His soft smile and his gentle laughter will be terribly missed.” Saundra Wright, ANS member-at-large, expressed a similar sense of loss and appreciation. “Dwan,” she related, was not only “an incredible scholar, but also such a genuine and thoughtful person […].”
In celebration of Dwan’s life, the WWU Linguistics Program has established a special scholarship fund in his name. Please type “Dwan Shipley Memorial Scholarship” into the gift designation box. Alternatively, check donations can be sent to the following postal address: WWU Foundation, 516 High Street, Bellingham, WA 98225-9034. Please be sure to include the name “Dwan Shipley Memorial Scholarship” in the memo line of the check. A special memorial service was held on Wednesday, the 24th of February 2016 at the Dakota Creek Christian Center in Blaine, Washington. Dwan is survived by his wife, Nita.
We at the ANS wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the Shipley family as well as the students and staff of the Linguistics Department of Western Washington University.