Theresa and Henry Biggs endow chair in Linguistics to honor Prof. Bruce Hayes

Published: December 3, 2019

UCLA Department of Linguistics celebrated the appointment of professor Bruce Hayes to the newly established Theresa McShane Biggs and Henry P. Biggs Centennial Term Chair in Linguistics. The department held an installation ceremony and reception on October 30 in the California Nanosystems Institute. UCLA Dean of Humanities David Schaberg and Professor Patricia Keating, who is the current department chair, gave opening remarks.

The Biggses endowed the new faculty chair, which was supplemented by the UCLA Centennial fundraising campaign. The Biggs Chair will fund both graduate and research support for Hayes.

“It will be helpful to my individual area within the department because it will fund research assistantships for students and probably a conference,” he said. “And it helps the department as a whole because it helps the graduate program.”

Both Henry and Theresa earned an MA degree at UCLA’s former Romance Linguistics program. The couple decided to honor Hayes, who advised Henry on his Ph.D. dissertation. Henry earned his Ph.D. in 1996.

“When [Henry] had finished writing his dissertation, he was already at his first teaching job in New York State,” Hayes recalled. “He was having trouble getting in touch with all of his committee members, to remind them to sign off on his work.”

“I ended up taking the signature page in person down to the office of [the] slowest member [and] telling him, “Henry’s great, and I’m happy. Do you have any questions?” This actually worked, and I returned with the final signature in hand.”

At the ceremony, Henry Biggs spoke about the tremendous impact Hayes has had on his life.

“The question is: did Bruce’s teaching and mentoring, his extra efforts, have any difference on my academic path? Nah,” Biggs said jokingly.

“This chair, this gift tonight, is happening in gratitude for the extraordinary teaching and mentoring of the one and only Bruce Hayes,” Biggs said. “It is further fitting that the matching Centennial grant will also allow so many more opportunities for graduate students to teach and do research.”

In addition to the reception, Hayes gave a lecture on “Studying verbal art in linguistics: Meter and mimetic words in Dr. Seuss.” Hayes presented on the role of meter and word play in written works authored by Dr. Seuss, incorporating findings from Henry’s dissertation as well.

Once Hayes’ inaugural term as Biggs Chair comes to an end, the position will rotate amongst faculty in the department.

“I think this was a handsome gesture on Henry and Theresa’s part,” he said. “I was really touched.”

Photo courtesy of UCLA Department of Linguistics

By Jasdy Perillo