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Memoir

Alton (Pete) Becker
Regents' Proceedings 710

Alton L. Becker, Professor of Linguistics, retired from active faculty status on May 31, 1986, after a distinguished career as a teacher and scholar.

Professor Becker is that rarity among Michigan faculty, a native of Michigan. He was born and grew up in Monroe and received both his A.B. degree and his Ph.D. degree from this university. He enriched his native state and university, however, by the knowledge and experience gained during extended visits to other parts of the world. He received his M.A. degree in English at the University of Connecticut, and he lived and worked for three years, from 1958 to 1961, in Taunggyi, in the Shan States of Burma, where he taught English under the Fulbright program.

From Burma, he returned to Michigan where he continued to teach English while working under Kenneth L. Pike on his Ph.D. in linguistics. He joined the Department of Linguistics as assistant professor in 1968 and he rose to professor in 1974. From 1972 to 1975 he served as director of the Center for South and Southeast Asian Studies.

From 1969 to 1971, Professor Becker was linguistic consultant for the Ford Foundation and visiting professor of linguistics at the Institute for Teaching and Educational Sciences, Malang, Java, Indonesia. He has returned to Indonesia several times since then to teach, consult, and conduct linguistic research on Java, Bali, Lombok, and Sulawesi. His publications reflect his travels, for he has written numerous articles on the languages and literatures of both Burma and Indonesia.

His background in English is also reflected in his publications, for he has written widely in the areas of language pedagogy, rhetoric, and philology and, often in collaboration with his ethnomusicologist wife, Professor Judith O. Becker, he has also written on musical theory. Members of our community remember his spellbinding performances as puppeteer with the Indonesian Gamalan Orchestra.

A teacher for whom the word "charismatic" is applied with more than its usual aptness, Professor Becker earned the devotion of hundreds of his students. A tireless tutor, he believed deeply in the individual worth and potential of everyone who worked with him. He made each of his students feel his special concern for their growth.

The Regents salute this distinguished teacher and scholar and, in recognition of his years of devoted service to the university, name Alton L. Becker Professor Emeritus of Linguistics.