Posted by: SSU Lingua Franca | April 27, 2020

Professor Jon Aske Retires!

Professor Jon Aske Retires!

Prof. Jon Aske

The fall 2019 semester was Dr. Jon Aske’s last as a full-time professor at Salem State University. After having completed his PhD in linguistics in Berkeley, California and teaching part-time at Bates College in Maine, he arrived at Salem State College in 1997. Starting as a Visiting Professor, Dr. Aske entered the tenure track as an Assistant Professor in 1999. He then was granted tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in 2005. He served as Department Chair between 2005 and 2008. Soon after Salem State transformed from a college to a university, in 2013 Dr. Aske was promoted to full Professor.

During the 22 years that he worked at Salem State, Dr. Aske taught undergraduate and graduate courses in linguistics, Spanish, grammar, writing and culture. He also wrote a massive book on cognates that, in its latest iteration, has become two volumes reaching 2,537 pages.

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From his comfortable office at home, Dr. Aske answered a few important questions for us:

Something he always wanted his students to know: There are many things that I wanted my students to know. I wanted them to know that I was there for them for anything they needed or even just to chat about life for no reason at all, because I felt many students may have felt intimidated by their professors (or by me), or feel awkward about how much they didn’t know.

I also wanted my students to know that they shouldn’t think of college as a vocational school where you acquire merely practical knowledge or learn a trade merely to increase their wage-earning potential, but as a place that could open the world to them and that they should take advantage of every opportunity to learn and explore, which includes having interactions with fellow students and professors outside the classroom, for in my experience most learning takes place outside the classroom, especially learning a language and understanding and becoming part of a new culture. I wanted my students to know that college can be a most wonderful part of their lives in which they could explore and question the world around them and find things to be passionate about. And by all means I wanted them to know that traveling and living abroad is one of the best schools, things that you will never regret having done or feel was a waste of time.

Finally, I also wanted my students to know some of the things that wise men have taught us about education that I hold dear, such as that “Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel” (Socrates); that “The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think [critically]” (Albert Einstein); that “If you are not willing to learn, no one can help you, but if you are determined to learn, no one can stop you” (Zig Ziglar); and, related to that last quote, that “Self-education is the only kind of education there is” (Isaac Asimov), without denying the fact that a good teacher is often very important as a facilitator, of course.

Those are some of the main things that I wanted my students to know.

A message for his former students: I’m still available if you need anything or if you just want to chat. The relationship with your college professors does not have to end the day you graduate. I love it when former students reach out and want to share their life with me, be it achievements or difficulties.

A message for his colleagues: You are all great people and I enjoyed working with you. I will miss you. I already do. Let’s stay in touch. I have plenty of time.

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Now happily retired, our faculty wanted to send him a few final homages. We know that he has already begun to enjoy his free time by spending it with family, friends, and a special trip to Japan to visit his new grandson. We miss you, Jon!

Here are our “Dear Jon” letters….

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Jon, although the beginning of our journey wasn’t the best, the ending was the greatest. I will miss you coming into the office and saying “HAPPY NEW YEAR” at the beginning of the semester and giving me a big hug. I will miss our conversations, visiting you in your office, you figuring out where to stand for pictures, your laugh and most of all Diana’s Banana Bread! I wish you all the happiness you deserve in the next chapter of your life and most importantly the love you will receive from your grandchildren.

With Love, Ronni

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Dear Jon, thank you for hiring me one hot summer many years ago. It was my first university job and my first time teaching Italian. You had faith in me and I hope I’ve shown that it was well placed. I wore a suit and tie to the interview and you were dressed in shorts and a T-shirt with your feet up on the desk. I felt awkward and out of place. Of course you had to say, “Nice suit!” with a smirk to make me feel extra awkward. But during our conversation, you succeeded in getting me to relax and convincing me that I had what it took to do the job. A couple years later, you suggested that I should also teach Spanish, too, and made it happen. You helped me a lot my first year when I had so many questions. Thanks for taking a chance on me! It was always a privilege and pleasure working with you.

Enjoy your retirement! Richard

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¡Hola Jon!

It was a wonderful ride with you. Thank you for all your help and solidarity from the beginning, for the music and videos, for the editing and corrections of my narratives, for the jokes and beers. I appreciate your honesty, and your advocacy. And even those times you made me crazy I knew that I could always talk frankly with you and be heard. I hope your life is full of happiness in this new chapter. I miss you!
Take care, Michele

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Dear Jon:

The first time we cooperated with each other was in hiring a Chinese tutor. You have always given me positive suggestions and showed your concerns. I always feel very fortunate to work for our department and think I couldn’t be luckier to be in a warm, friendly environment like this. And I know you are the one to make our department full of laughter, humor and cheer. Maybe you are just being yourself, but that spreads so much energy to people around you. Thank you! Please enjoy your retirement and being a proud grandpa : )

Best, Ti-Cheng

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Jon, I wish you all the best in your much deserved retirement! It has been an honor to work with you as you have always been so professional and so helpful! I hope you are enjoying your travels and I hope that you will be able to visit all of the places you want to visit! You were a great boss as you were my Chairperson a few times and I thank you for your support along the way! You have made a difference at Salem State University and you will be missed!  All the best and I am so happy for you! Buon viaggio ed auguri!!!!  With much appreciation and all the best to you and your bella famiglia, Rayanne.

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Jon, You were our technology guru, our resident linguist, often the voice of dissent in departmental matters, but always our greatest supporter! You were such an important part of our faculty team, I can’t imagine the department without you. Best wishes for a happy and fulfilling life in retirement! Liz

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Dear Jon, I cannot imagine Sullivan Building, Department meetings, departmental parties and events without you. You have been such a tech and linguistic resource for me and the rest of the professors and students over the years. Thank you for all you have done and I wish you much happiness, relaxation, fun and travel in the years to come. All my best, Nicole

Dear Jon, You will be missed! Thank you for everything you did over the years to support and develop the department. Enjoy your travels in your retirement! Kristine

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Dear Jon, I wish you all the best in your new projects! You have been in many ways a problem-solver in our department. In addition to being in charge for many years of the online edition of Lingua Franca, you were also the ‘official’ photographer, immortalizing all of our departmental ceremonies, celebrations, and calendars! Thanks to you, we have an archive of memories! Jon was also our IT person to rely upon and helped me numerous times when I had technical emergencies! I am sure I won’t be the only one missing him and I am happy that he finally did keep the promise to himself of wanting to retire. -Anna

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¡Aske! From sharing an office to being neighbors, I had to wait for you to leave to finally get a window! Thank you for being a mentor, colleague, and friend. Your students were lucky to share a classroom with you and we were fortunate to count you as part of our department. Enjoy the well-deserved time for yourself. I’m sure you will take full advantage of it. -Ken

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Dear Jon, you would stop by my office often: It would go from asking how’s it going, to complaining about the universe, reporting on our families, or evoking a tortilla de patatas. In these busy days of tight schedules and hard-working students, those five-minute respites were more than welcome. Our life stories are different and the same: Originally from Basque country, we share common traditions and we arrived in Salem when there was not even a Spanish Major. Your chit-chats were a familiar constant, both a reminder of who we are and how we have grown at Salem State. While students and the department navigate the continuation of the tutoring and the wonderful community developed at the Language Resource Center under Dr. Aske’s direction, I will be missing the five-minute pockets of home we shared. Have fun Jon! -Fátima


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