John Michael Dienhart


Died April 4, 2004

College: Berkeley

Widow: Mrs. John M. Dienhart
Address Not Available

Children: Kristina, 1969; Kathryn, 1973

John was my roommate freshman year. We shared meals together from time to time but did not have other commonalities. John was a quiet type-didn’t swear and didn’t drink — and was close to his family. I spent one weekend with his family during our first year. During our sophomore year, I used to go by and see him (different colleges) to listen to classical music (he was fond of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony”) which inspired us to consider leaving school but failed in the end. In June following our sophomore year, we rode bicycles from Paris to LeHavre to meet his parents who were meeting up with him after he played in a Paris concert with the Yale band. We got along well though he was a bit timid from my point of view. After a train back to Paris with his parents, he decided to stay with them, and I went elsewhere.

When he died, he was Associate Professor (lektor) of English in the Institute of Language and Communication at Odense University. After Yale (B.A., mathematics), he worked as a computer programmer for IBM in Texas. In 1964, he left IBM for graduate school, taking an M.A. in anthropology at Arizona State University. From there, he studied linguistics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, earning a second M.A. and completing all requirements for the Ph.D. except the thesis – the unfinished manuscript still haunts me.

In 1967, he married a Danish girl named Karin, whom he met in Arizona. In 1971, he accepted a job in the English Department at Odense University in Denmark, and Karin joined the staff at Odense Hospital as an anesthetist. They had two daughters.

John’s research and publications dealt with English grammar, phonetics, general linguistics, comparative syntax (English, Danish, German), the language of poetry, the language of humor, computers, and Mayan language. He was one of the founding fathers of VISL, a research and development project at the Institute of Language and Communication (ISK), University of Southern Denmark (SDU), and was head of the English section until his death. He was untiring in his efforts to further the project in every possible way: he wrote countless VISL project applications, and as project coordinator, available almost around the clock, he ensured the smooth running of the VISL project from day to day for the benefit of users worldwide.

—by John Cogswell