In Memoriam: Richard Diebold
A. Richard Diebold Jr., UA professor emeritus of anthropology, died on March 1 at his longtime home in Tucson. He was 80 years old.
Diebold led a brilliant academic career as a linguistic anthropologist specializing in comparative and historical Indo-European studies, theoretical linguistics, psycholinguistics and transcultural psychiatry.
His work with Mesoamerican ethnic groups, in particular with the Huave people, proved crucial to the communities' cultural survival.
"Richard Diebold profoundly impacted the discipline of anthropology due to his own world-class scholarship in linguistics, especially the origins of Indo-European languages, as well as through his broadly-based philanthropic generosity that fostered research and student progress in subfields that define virtually the full range of modern anthropology," said UA Regents' Professor of Anthropology John Olsen.
Diebold's track as a scholar began at the Buckley School in New York and continued in Connecticut through prep school at Hotchkiss and undergraduate and doctoral studies at Yale University.
He worked as a researcher and a professor at Harvard, Berkeley and Stanford before joining the UA in 1974. He retired from the University in 1992.
"I truly enjoyed the time I worked with Richard. It seemed less like work because of our conversations on topics ranging from bees and mules to food, film and art," said Charla Dain, administrative assistant in the School of Anthropology. "His knowledge and interests knew no bounds, and were paired with a hugely generous spirit."
In addition to his work as an academic, Diebold found a calling as a philanthropist, founding and directing the Salus Mundi Foundation, which focused on funding Indo-European studies and supported many local causes that were dear to Diebold's heart.
“Richard was not only an amazing academic teacher. He was also a person of many talents and experiences that he shared with me through our friendship," said Catherine Lehman, administrative associate in the School of Anthropology. "He expanded my knowledge of everyday topics to the intricacies of language and linguistic anthropology even though I'm not an anthropologist."
A memorial service for Diebold will be held on April 12 at the Arizona State Museum, Gallery 102, at 10 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations in his memory can be made to the Archive of the Indigenous Languages of Latin America.
Diebold is survived by daughter Deborah Diebold de Naveja and her husband Juan María Naveja de Anda; grandson Juan María (JM) Naveja Diebold and his wife Belinda Kamm; brother Dudley George Diebold and his wife Honoria Hine Diebold; and nephews and nieces.