The Monterey Institute community was sad to learn over the holiday break of the passing of longtime professor Leo van Lier on December 23. A professor of educational linguistics, Leo joined the Institute faculty in 1986.
“We all loved him for his wit, insightfulness and kindness and we marveled at his immense knowledge and exquisite vision,” shares Professor Peter Shaw. Leo authored several notable books in the field of language learning, served as editor-in-chief of The Modern Language Journal and on the editorial boards of a number of different journals. Before joining the Monterey Institute in 1986, Leo taught at the University of Northern Iowa and in Britain, Peru, Mexico, Scandinavia and the Netherlands.
“Leo was one of the most creative thinkers in our profession in recent years,” says Professor Kathleen (Kathi) Bailey. “His research and writing influenced language teaching worldwide. In particular, his ideas about second language acquisition, oral proficiency interviewing, action research, chaos theory, ecological linguistics influenced the ways in which the profession has developed since the publication of his first book in 1988.”
Leo is remembered as “a great human being” and for his “unique combination of intellectual brilliance and empathetic compassion.” In the words of Kathi Bailey: “I liked to think of Leo as our resident “modelologist,” since he so often thought by drawing figures that represented concepts. Often in a TESOL-TFL faculty meeting when we were trying to hash out a complex issue, Leo would sit quietly and listen to the discussion while he sketched. Then he would show us what he had drawn and how the relationship among the issues we were debating could be better understood. He was a great scholar and a wonderful friend, and I miss him.”