International Journal of Applied Linguistics

Cover image for Vol. 26 Issue 1

Edited By: Janina Brutt-Griffler and Daniel Perrin

Online ISSN: 1473-4192

Tribute to Willis Edmondson

Willis EdmondsonWillis Edmondson, who died December 2009, was editor of InJAL for only a short time, and under circumstances which were as unusual and unpredictable as the man himself.

After retiring from his post as Professor of Applied Linguistics in Hamburg in 2005, instead of relaxing into an easy life, as one might have expected, he did exactly the opposite and went to teach for two years at the University of Hebron in Palestine. On his return, looking for another purposeful challenge, he took over the editorship of InJAL. Shortly afterwards he was told he had a brain tumour. In spite of subsequent surgery and debilitating chemotherapy, Willis carried on, undeterred and apparently unfazed, determined to resist and confident of recovery, taking up even this challenge with the same kind of individual integrity and purpose that characterized everything he did.

For Willis was unusual, out of the ordinary. This is not immediately apparent from his CV. Highly impressive though this is as a record of scholarly qualifications and achievements it does not indicate what was so unique about him. The list of degrees, publications, professorial appointments is conventional testimony to a most successful academic career, but it cannot reveal the unconventional ways of thinking that made Willis so remarkable. I know of nobody who was less hampered by established ideas or received wisdom. He had a way of cutting through obfuscation and pretention to get to the heart of things. Not only in academic argument, but in human relations, in life in general, he did things his own way, considerate of others, but true to himself, whether he was teaching a course, cooking pasta, composing poems or playing his saxophone.

He prompted and provoked us to think again and differently about familiar things. It is sad that he had so little time to make his distinctive mark as editor of InJAL. While paying tribute to the uniqueness of Willis Edmondson as scholar and personality, one cannot but regret what he might still have achieved if only he had lived a little while longer.

By H.G. Widdowson