Frank E. Robbins

Posted: November 2017

The LSA has learned with regret of the September 22, 2016 death of former LSA Life member Frank E Robbins (SIL International). Frank Robbins was a passionate linguist, devoted to the field, and a Life Member of the LSA since 1958.

See below for an announcement from SIL International:


Dr. Frank E. Robbins, 90, died peacefully September 22, 2016, in Duncanville, Texas. His wife of nearly 68 years, Ethel, preceded him in death by one year.

Frank and Ethel met at Houghton college in 1945 and were married in August, 1947. They joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International in 1950 then went to Mexico where they served among the Quiotepec Chinantec in the state of Oaxaca. Frank was soon selected by his colleagues to direct the work of SIL in Mexico. He eventually became Director of the SIL summer training program at the University of Oklahoma, serving alongside Dr. Kenneth L. Pike.

In 1972, he and Ethel moved to Dallas, Texas. He became Vice-President of Academic Affairs, helped establish the Texas SIL school, and developed a productive relationship with the linguistics department and the President of the University of Texas at Arlington. In 1976, he became the International Executive Director of SIL International and Wycliffe International, serving until 1983.

From 1985 to 1989 he was appointed Africa Area Director of SIL International and Wycliffe International. As the work of SIL expanded enormously around the world during the 1980s and 1990s, there was a growing effort to develop leadership skills of people within the nations where SIL served. Frank was at the center, along with others, of these developments. He returned from Nairobi, Kenya, in 1989 and again led Texas SIL. In 1990, he added the role of President of SIL International to his responsibilities, serving effectively as chairman of the SIL Board until 1999 when he retired.
Posted: November 2017

Frank’s years of service in SIL and Wycliffe International leadership made him something of a statesman among the SIL and Wycliffe leaders at the close of the 20th century. He also served as a vital and major connection between the initial and the current international leadership of these two organizations, connecting the leadership of the Cameron Townsend era to the leadership of the 21st century. These organizations are exceedingly grateful for the leadership role that Dr. Frank Robbins played in their history and his continuing impact being felt into the present-day. In the words of SIL Executive Director Michel Kenmogne, “Frank modeled the values of academic excellence, Christlikeness and empowerment of others.”

Frank leaves behind four adult children, Sara, Larry, Anna Jo, and David, and their four spouses. He also leaves behind 16 grandchildren and 26 great grandchildren.