Edwina Maria (Wyn) Wright, 1946–2007
Wright received a B.A. in sociology from Douglass College of Rutgers University in 1967, an M.A. in religion from Eastern Baptist Seminary in 1969, an M.Div. from McCormick Theological Seminary in 1985. In 1996 she became the first African-American woman to receive a Ph.D. from the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University.
A brilliant linguist and polyglot, Wright was able to learn and analyze languages with stunning speed and thoroughness. As a doctoral student she was constantly in search of new languages to learn, and convinced her advisor (the undersigned) to embark on the study of several languages with her. In her Harvard dissertation, “Terms for the Person in Semitic,” she disentangled and analyzed the semantically and morphologically complex sets of terms for ‘person’, ‘human’, ‘woman/man’, ‘female/male’ in all of the Semitic languages, and in a number of the languages in the larger Afro-Asiatic language phylum to which the Semitic family belongs. The dissertation has unfortunately remained unpublished. She contributed “The Relationship between Hebrew and African Languages” to the African American Jubilee Edition of the Bible (American Bible Society).
Wright had a beautiful voice, and on occasion, to take a break from studying or writing her dissertation, she would entertain commuters by singing in the Harvard Square subway station.
After receiving her Ph.D., Wright taught at Rutgers University. In 1998 she was appointed Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Union Theological Seminary; later she was made Director of Language Studies, a position she retained until her retirement last spring to pursue ordination in the Presbyterian church. At Union, she regularly taught Biblical Hebrew and Biblical Greek, and occasionally tutored students in Biblical Aramaic, Classical Ethiopic, and comparative Semitic linguistics. She loved teaching languages, and was a gifted teacher and mentor, already with fellow students at Harvard, and then to a generation of students at Union. She also taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary, Auburn Seminary, the Riverside Church, and the Madison Avenue Baptist Church, all in Manhattan.
Wyn Wright is survived by her mother Mary Wright, her sister Julia Matlock, and her brothers W. Kevin Wright, Esq., and Hon. Michael Paul Wright, J.S.C. Her brilliance as a linguist and as a teacher, but even more her extraordinary warmth and kindness, and her joyful laughter, will be missed by all who knew her.
John Huehnergard , Harvard University.
Other notices, tributes to Prof. Wright:
Citation: John Huehnergard, " Edwina Maria (Wyn) Wright, 1946–2007," SBL Forum , n.p. [cited Jan 2008]. Online:http://sbl-site.org/Article.aspx?ArticleID=745