Zdenek “Denny” Salzmann

Posted: August 2021

The LSA has just learned of the death of Zdenek “Denny” Salzmann, which occurred earlier this Spring. Dr. Salzman was a Life Member of the LSA, having first joined in 1949.

According to a brief obituary published in the Red Rock News, Dr. Salzman was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia. He came to the United States in 1947 and earned degrees from Indiana University. He taught at the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Verde Valley School, Exeter Academy, the University of Massachusetts in Amherst and Northern Arizona University. He is survived by his wife Joy; daughters Anne, Linda and Erica; sons-in-law David, Pete and Mohamed; four grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and three nephews. In lieu of flowers, donations are suggested to the Verde Valley School.

This article from 2019 discusses Dr. Salzman's linguistics work in more detail, as does the notice below:

Excerpted from the UMass Magazine Class Notes and Connections
The family of Zdenek Salzmann wishes to inform the UMass Amherst community of their passing.

Dr. Zdenek Salzmann, known as Denny to his many fans, died May 10, 2021 at the age of ninety-five. An accomplished academic, a round-the-world traveler, exuberant lover of a good laugh and a father figure to more than his three daughters, he lived life to the fullest. He sweat-lodged with the Arapaho in Wyoming, documented life in a Czech-speaking village in Romania, and drove Verde Valley School students across Mexico living and learning the culture, playing mariachi music at full blast in the living room when he returned. He survived a two-week dory trip through the Grand Canyon, a hot air balloon sail over Sedona, rode a Ferris wheel in Germany just to accompany a friend’s child, and finally explored Machu Picchu with his three daughters when he was seventy-two. He loved music - from opera to the Beatles to songs from Broadway shows, played piano by ear, and always had the Oxford Dictionary of Music at hand. And he loved garlic - raw, freshly squeezed straight from the garlic press.

Denny was born in Prague, Czechoslovakia on October 18,1925. After "gymnasium" or high school, he attended Charles University and then on August 25,1947 set off from Le Havre, France on the converted U.S. troop ship SS Marine Tiger with hundreds of American students from the World Student Service Fund, bound for NY Harbor. Upon arrival, due to a visa "problem", he was unexpectedly separated from the group and taken to Ellis Island where he spent several days and nights before the father of one of the young American men on the ship, a N.Y.C. attorney, arranged for him to go before a judge who resolved the issue. By the spring semester of 1948 he was pursuing his Master's Degree at Indiana University in Bloomington, eventually earning his PhD from I.U. as well. There he met Joy McCollum who was working toward her Master’s Degree in English. They were married in 1949 and began a life of seventy-two years together.

Denny’s field work in linguistics initially took him to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming to write a grammar, and in later years to compile the first Dictionary of Contemporary Arapaho Usage and develop a bi-lingual education program for school children. He was subsequently made an honorary chief for his help in preserving the Northern Arapaho Tribe of Wyoming’s language. Ten important years, from 1956 to 1966, were lived at Verde Valley School in Sedona, Arizona; he taught for seven years, then became School Director for three. The school's philosophy, one which emphasized respect for all cultures, took students on field trips to Mexico and Native American communities to live with families, and valued students’ sweat equity as caretakers of the school and the environment, became a family philosophy, and the red rocks became home.

From Sedona, Denny and his family of seven - wife Joy, daughters Anne, Linda and Erica, his mother-in-law Sara, and Sula the German Shepard - moved to Exeter, New Hampshire for two years at Exeter Academy where he inaugurated the teaching of anthropology. In 1968, Denny joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst as a professor of anthropology and as an adjunct professor in the Slavic Languages department. He thoroughly enjoyed his university life - introducing colleagues to sweat lodges in his back yard, writing several textbooks, teaching for the Institute of Shipboard Education Semester at Sea program and as a visiting professor in Freiburg, Germany. He traveled to the Czech Republic often to see his mother and his sister and her family, and to attend reunions of his secondary school classmates.

In 1989, Denny retired from UMass. He and Joy moved to Sedona near friends and into a home designed by their daughter Linda with views of their favorite red rocks. They entertained out-of-state friends and colleagues and enjoyed Christmases with their daughters and their families at the beach in Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Denny continued to teach as an Adjunct Professor at Northern Arizona University, lectured and taught an Introduction to Anthropology class at Coconino County Community College, taught Latin to Verde Valley School students, and returned to Prague for many years to lecture at Charles University during the spring term. He continued to write up until his death, most of his later articles in Czech for publication online. He worked outside around the house, made beautiful tile tables and assembled a first-class international stamp collection. His work ethic was legendary to all who knew him and one of his favorite sayings was “Some of us have to work!" When he was worried that he couldn’t live up to his own ethic the last few months, he said, “I am slowly decomposing.” We loved his oddball sense of humor.

Denny touched many people with his enthusiasm for life, his love of laughter, his energy and his perpetual curiosity. He is survived by his wife Joy, his daughters Anne, Linda and Erica, his devoted sons-in-law David, Pete and Mohamed, four grandchildren Galen, Jamel, Salem and Tanner, four great grandchildren Alma, Juliana, Sky and Matteo, and three beloved nephews Martin, Michal and Jon and their extended families in Prague. We miss his spirited personality, his strong Manhattans, the love he had for his family, and his unconventional humor. Here's to you Dad!