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In Memoriam: Warren S. Walker

Warren S. Walker



Texas Tech faculty are a diverse group, coming from many areas of the world and working in research and teaching that embraces much of the world's knowledge bases. Even in our Department of English, with which I was associated for more than thirty-five years, there is a great variety of interest and research, and teaching fields embrace all periods of English and American literature, writing, film, popular culture and other subjects. Within this multifaceted faculty there was even a specialist in Turkish folklore who brought international attention to Tech through his work in a vast collection of tales and artifacts from this ancient land.

Warren Walker, who died on November 22 at 81, was a distinguished scholar and teacher who worked tirelessly in his field during nearly four decades at Tech. He and his wife, Barbara, came here in 1964 after a distinguished career in two other institutions. Warren earned a doctorate in American literature at Cornell in 1951 and wrote and edited a number of books on James Fenimore Cooper. But it was a visiting professorship in Turkey in the early sixties that fixed the major course of his work for the rest of the century. While in Turkey in 1961-62, he and his wife began the collection of Turkish folktales that was continued in later visits and eventually culminated in the establishment of the Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative in the Tech Library. It is the only collection of its kind in the nation and attracts research scholars from around the world.

After his retirement from the English faculty in 1986, Warren and his wife Barbara continued to spend almost full time in the Archive offices, cataloging, transcribing, interpreting and publishing from this treasure trove of Turkish culture. During his long career, Warren published some thirty-seven volumes and more than eighty-five articles and reviews. He was one of our most productive scholars in and brought considerable recognition to the department and university for his work. It was in recognition of this substantial achievement that he was made a Horn Professor in 1971. This designation was established to recognize the most distinguished of Tech's faculty, and Warren's selection was acclaimed by all who were familiar with his work.

I have referred to Dr. Walker as Warren thus far because he was more than a respected colleague; he was my friend. We shared offices next door to one another for some twenty years and were continually involved in discussion of our work, campus politics and the higher aspects of academe. He was a person of considerable integrity and of the old school, so far as academic standards and dedication to the profession were concerned. I was admiringly aware of his dedication to students and of their appreciation for him as a teacher and mentor. I served with him on several doctoral committees and he impressed me as the ideal professor, leading his charges to the best work they could produce, but always with an evident concern for their professional and personal welfare.

The leadership Warren gave as senior faculty led the university in 1984 to present him with the first annual Distinguished Faculty Leadership Award, designed to recognize those professors who render outstanding service on faculty councils and committees. This action was entirely appropriate as Warren was recognized across the campus for his wisdom and counsel. This award and the Horn Professorship were only two of many awards, including an honorary doctorate from Selcuk University in Turkey, citation from the Turkish Ministry of Education for Contributions to the Study of Turkish Culture, listings in Contemporary Authors and Who's Who in America, and the Distinguished Lecturer Award from the Southwest Conference Humanities Consortium.

Warren was married to the former Barbara Kerlin, who was his constant collaborator in Turkish studies and herself the author of numerous children's books and collections of tales from Turkish culture.

Self-effacing as he was, Warren requested that there be no memorial service and willed his body for the use of science. Though he never forbade the tribute I am writing, I suspect he would have been somewhat displeased by such attention. But I could not forgo some chronicle of his very significant contributions to Texas Tech and to numerous other institutions through the scholars he trained. I always thought of Warren as a statesman scholar, a model of what our profession seeks to perpetuate. My friendship probably promotes some bias in my assessment, but his high standard is what has made Tech the university it is today, in research, in teaching and in the civic virtues that make any institution, ideally, a benefit to society.


Thomas A. Langford

Professor and Dean, Emeritus


Go Back to Uysal-Walker Archive of Turkish Oral Narrative
Uysal Walker Türk Öykürleri Sandığı'na Geri Dönüş

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