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Slavic languages professor retiring after half a century

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Professor Jim Augerot

Jim Augerot, a professor in the Slavic languages and literatures department, has dedicated his life to language.

Since coming to the UW in 1960 as a graduate student, he has learned Romanian, French, Hungarian, Bulgarian, Spanish, and Russian. He can also read Serbo-Croatian, Polish, and Old Church Slavic (the first Slavic literary language).

After finishing his master’s degree, he took on various roles at the UW, as a teaching assistant and lecturer, until eventually becoming a full-time professor in the Slavic languages and literatures department in 1987.

Now half a century later, Augerot is retiring. 

On March 1, an event was held to honor Augerot’s time at the UW and to celebrate his birthday. Faculty and friends alike reminisced on the positive effects he has had on their lives.

Over 60 people attended, all eager to talk to Augerot and share snippets of their interactions with him over the years, from his teaching to his talent for bridge and poker. He cracked jokes while interacting with colleagues and students.

Augerot has authored multiple modern Romanian language textbooks, completed research on Slavic linguistics, and taught courses ranging from beginning Russian language and the history of Slavic languages to the Glagolitic alphabet, the oldest known Slavic alphabet.

He was a Fulbright professor in Romania from 1964-1966, and Bulgaria from 1968-1969. During his time abroad, he taught linguistics and learned Romanian.

As a graduate student at the UW, Augerot was primarily interested in learning how to teach students foreign languages, but he also had a group of friends who met at the Northlake Tavern every Friday afternoon to eat pizza, drink beer, and talk about interesting things they had learned in their fields. 

“He’s just a great guy and I think he is like one of the pillars of not just the department but the university,” said Galya Diment, a fellow professor in the Slavic department.

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Augerot’s strive for intellect is just one of his many positive attributes.

“When you know a foreign language, you are not quite the same person when you speak it as you are speaking your native language,” he said. “There’s a whole set of experiences that you associate with new language that kind of allows you to change a little bit and to broaden your interests.”

During his time at the UW, Augerot said he has noticed a shift in graduate and undergraduate students steering away from language and literature departments. 

He said that people of all backgrounds, and with any career goals, should study language. 

“He always likes to make things approachable and understandable, so to not keep them at a high level that barely anyone would understand, but [to] actually make you understand the topic with whichever terms you can,” said Bojan Belić, a principal lecturer in the Slavic department.

Augerot’s teaching philosophy involves embracing students with an open-mind and patient attitude.

“You see lights go on, and often students are very appreciative of what they learned,” Augerot said. “It makes you feel good.”

Augerot is nicknamed Big Jim, and rightfully so. Everything about him is big: his love for others, his personality, his vast knowledge of languages, and his humor.

“He’s loyal to the university and has pride in the university. He’s on campus all the time. His door is always open and his smile is always radiant,” Diment said. “He’s just a great, great guy.”

Reach contributing writer Carlyn McCormick at Twitter: @CarlynRMc

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