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Kathy Houlihan (1947-2020)

September 1, 2020

The Institute of Linguistics at the University of Minnesota mourns the passing of our former colleague, mentor, and friend, Professor Kathleen (Kathy) Houlihan, who passed away at home in Gallup, New Mexico, on Friday, February 7, 2020. Kathy's funeral was at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Gallup, New Mexico, on February 12. 

Kathy was born in Chicago on September, 4, 1947. She received her BA with Highest Honors in Spanish at The University of Texas, Austin where also she received a PhD in Linguistics, completing her dissertation, The Role of Word Boundary in Phonological Processes, in 1975.

Kathy joined the Linguistics faculty member at the University of Minnesota as Instructor in 1972, and was promoted to Assistant Professor in 1975 and Associate Professor in 1979.  She served as Visiting Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas at El Paso, 1983-84 and in the summer of 1985. She was Visiting Associate Professor of Linguistics at UCLA in the summer of 1981 and, through a National Science Foundation Faculty Development Grant, Visiting Scholar in that department in 1980-81.  She also served as Adjunct Associate Professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of New Mexico.  

At the University of Minnesota, Kathy taught a wide variety of courses in phonetics and phonology, including Experimental Phonetics, Applied Phonetics, Phonology at all levels, courses on Voiceprints, courses in Spanish, including the Structure of Modern Spanish and Portuguese Phonology, Seminars on Spanish and Portuguese Phonology and Spanish Dialectology. At UCLA she taught Phonetics and at UT El Paso she taught Phonology and Contrastive Analysis of Spanish and English, Structure of Spanish and Introduction to Linguistics. She was highly regarded as a teacher and was nominated twice for teaching awards.  She was also a superb mentor who generously shared her intellectual gifts with patience, humor, and warmth. 

Her research investigated the intersection of phonology, phonetics, and typology, and she was an early proponent of functional constraints on phonology. Her proposal that lexically early cues are especially informative, and should therefore be less subject to neutralizing processes, has remained particularly influential. For example, that proposal, and the supporting data, have informed very recent work on incremental language processing that has appeared in Language and Folia Linguistica Historica. 

Kathy fought lung cancer for over twenty years.  She is survived by her husband, Holt Truex, and a brother, Michael Houlihan.  She was a friend and mentor to countless students and colleagues at the University and around the world.