PROFILE: Dr. Lilith Haynes: From Bishop’s High School to UWI, Stanford, and Harvard – By: Dhanpaul Narine 

By: Dhanpaul Narine

Dr. Lilith Haynes has a resume that is a mile long, and when you to get to the end of it, you realize that it does not do her justice. She has excelled in academia, taught as a distinguished professor, traveled and lectured, consulted, attended numerous conferences, published widely, and has received countless awards and honors. But throughout it all, this remarkable scholar has retained the common touch, because the thankful and humble will see the gates of heaven!

    In a wonderful career, Dr. Haynes has always put the welfare of her students first, and the relationships have endured. She is guided by the lessons from her early life. Her parents cared and inspired, and instilled in her a work ethic that she carried to places far and wide.   

Dr. Lilith Haynes

   Lilith Haynes was born in Pike Street, in Kitty, Georgetown, Guyana. Her mom was Lucille Sobryan and her dad was Oscar Haynes. Lilith also has a brother Ian, known as Peter. Lucille attended Bishop’s High School and was a nurse midwife, while her husband Oscar was a tailor. Lilith went to Ms. Nichols Kindergarten School when she was three years old and then to the Moravian School in Anira Street. She articulated to Bishop’s High School, on a scholarship. Lilith was determined to do well. She took a liking for languages. After her graduation in 1963, she went to Barbados, and started her studies at the Cave Hill Campus, thanks to the generosity of her grandmother, Irene Sobryan.

  Lilith did well at Cave Hill where she excelled in languages. She graduated with honors in French and Spanish, with Latin.  As a result, she was offered a scholarship to study at Mona, in Jamaica, where she branched out into linguistics. In 1969, she was awarded her Master’s Degree in Linguistics, based on her research of ‘Local Names of Plants in Guyana: A Linguistic and Ethnobotanical Study.’ In 1970, Lilith went on a scholarship to the prestigious Stanford University to read for her doctorate. She looked at language in Barbados and Guyana, comparing their language attitudes and behaviors. In 1973, she earned her PhD in Linguistics and that made her one of the few persons in the Caribbean to have earned such a degree in this field of study.

     The world of employment beckoned and Lilith found herself teaching at New Mexico State University. She was a member of the graduate faculty and rose to be the Chairperson in the Interdepartmental Committee on Linguistics. In 1976, she was hired to work for the Ford Foundation. Lilith was stationed at the Regional Office in Egypt where she managed programs in language research and teaching, in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan and Tunisia. Her tour of duty lasted for three years and in 1979 Lilith was hired to teach English, Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton College in Minnesota, as a Distinguished Visiting Professor.

   A thirteen-year stint from, 1981 to 1994, saw her teaching at the Universitat Gesamthochschule Essen in Germany; while on a year’s leave she went to the University of Delaware, where she taught Sociolinguistic Theory and Language and the Black Experience. By this time, Lilith’s reputation and academic excellence had reached stellar levels. She had taught and developed courses in linguistics, attended numerous workshops, and conferences, published extensively, and consulted with a number of international agencies. Lilith also received many awards and honors for her outstanding contribution to scholarship.

    These awards were from the University of the West Indies, the Linguistic Society of America, Stanford University, World University Service of Canada, the Guyana Tri-State Alliance, New Mexico State University, and others. The years 1991 to 1993 saw her at Babson College in Massachusetts where she continued to work in language proficiency programs.

   Lilith’s contributions and reputation did not go unnoticed. She said, ‘One day, my phone rang. It was Harvard University. They wanted me to run their language program. I interviewed with them and I was to spend the next twenty-two years at Harvard.’ It was a fulfilling experience to combine administration with teaching at one of the world’s leading universities. Lilith’s two children, Lindi and Alexander, have also excelled. They are proud of their mother, and she speaks highly of them.

   In her many travels, Lilith singles out Egypt as one of her favorite places because of the warmth of the people and the sense of history that the country possesses. As she looks back on a long, rich, and fruitful career, Lilith thanks all that have crossed her path, and made her journey memorable and rewarding. Her parents, her children, and her former boss, Guillaume deSpoelberch, feature highly on her list. Lilith’s contribution to scholarship is immense. She is a teacher’s teacher that continues to inspire and we can’t wait for the autobiography to read it all. We wish her, and her family, all the best in the future.

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  • dhanpaul narine  On 05/10/2021 at 8:57 pm

    Dr. Lilith Haynes has asked me to thank all the readers for their good wishes. She appreciates all of you..

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