After 32 years of service at Azusa Pacific University, Rich Robison, PhD, will be retiring from the Department of Sociology, TESOL, and Modern Languages in August 2023. As a professor in the TESOL program, primarily in applied linguistics, he has taught a variety of courses from freshman writing seminars to masters-level courses on grammar, pronunciation, and second-language assessment. He has been chair since 2002, and his leadership has been a steady force for the department.
After graduating from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a scientiae baccalaureus (Bachelor of Science) in Mathematics in 1972, Robison earned a Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in 1976 before completing a Master of Arts in Linguistics and a PhD in Applied Linguistics from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) in 1985 and 1993, respectively. His original areas of research were in teaching pronunciation and second-language acquisition, the latter specifically on the acquisition of verb morphology. Pronunciation fascinated Robison all of his life, though he did not begin learning how it worked until graduate school, and he became fascinated with the idea of interlanguage. Since 2000, he has branched out into other areas, thanks to the prompting of his APU colleagues; these areas include the ethics of teaching English, the professional preparation of non-native English speakers, teacher identity formation, and the integration of faith in English language teaching.
Robison said the Lord got him into his fascination with linguistics while he was pastoring a small church in Queens, New York, in 1978. He and his wife, Mary Jo, were praying about what they might do next, and among other things, the Lord seemed to put “linguistics” into his mind. He had never studied linguistics and knew nothing about it, but when the world of linguistics entered his mind, it brought incredible joy, a kind that he associated with God. When he later began studying linguistics, he found that he enjoyed it and excelled in it.
What Robison has enjoyed the most about being at APU is the people who work and study here, especially the faculty, staff, and students of his department. He has enjoyed laughing with them and also being stimulated to consider social and theological perspectives that are different from his own. He has enjoyed interacting with students in and out of class, and being able to sometimes ham it up in class using his special briefcase.
Outside of the classroom, Robison enjoys reading. Over the last few years he and his wife have worked through C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, Anthony Trollope’s The Barchester Chronicles, all of Jane Austen’s works, and the complete series of Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, along with other books. Now with retirement in sight, he is looking forward to having more time to read. He enjoys music, particularly classical, but also the Beach Boys and Beatles on occasion, and enjoys walking—usually fast. Sometimes, though, he does like to slow down and sit outside, sipping coffee and admiring the clouds, and on occasion getting back to his mathematical roots and thinking about number theory.
He has been married to his best friend and soulmate, Mary Jo, for 52 years, and they are even better friends now than when they married. He also has the privilege of being “Papa” to 15 grandchildren (soon to be 16). As only five of his 10 children have children as of this moment, he looks forward to a few more grandchildren in the future.
In recognition of his years of service in academia in general, and at APU specifically, and at the recommendation of the provost, Robison has been recognized as professor emeritus. We thank him for all of his years of service to his students and the greater APU community, as well as for his insight, his heart, and his passion for the mission of the Department of Sociology, TESOL, and Modern Languages.