Frederic Lehman

Frederic Lehman

CHAMPAIGN – Frederic Kris Lehman, 92, of Champaign, known to family, friends and colleagues as Kris, passed away at home at around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, surrounded by his family.

He was born on Feb. 5, 1924, in New York City, the son of David Henry Lehman and Olga Isabel Lehman. At age 3, he went to live with the family of his father's cousin in Calcutta, India, where he remained until age 4. Thereafter, he and his family moved to Lashio, Burma, where he apprenticed in the family gem trade at age 14.

In 1940, he left Burma to visit his parents when he was caught up in the World War II, serving mostly in the Merchant Navy, and injuring his back in a German attack on his convoy.

After the war, he took his high school equivalency at DeWitt Clinton High School, then entered New York University studying mathematics and theoretical physics (minoring in languages and social sciences), graduating with honors in 1949.

He entered Columbia University studying anthropology and linguistics, taking his Ph.D. degree in 1959 after returning from his first major field trip to the Chin Hills of Burma with his wife and elder son.

He took his first academic appointment at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, becoming an assistant professor in 1960-61; a tenured associate professor in 1965; and a professor in 1968. He had conducted field research in Burma, Thailand, India and China. He retired as emeritus professor of anthropology, linguistics and cognitive sciences in the spring of 2009.

Though retired, Kris continued to collaborate with colleagues around the world and remained on the cutting edge of his interests, giving papers at conferences, writing and publishing until two months before his death. Kris Lehman was well-liked and respected by students and colleagues throughout the world.

Kris married Sheila Geyer in New York on Sept. 10, 1956. Kris is survived by his wife, Sheila; his sons, Mark Alexander Lehman (Sandra Edwards) and Charles Frederic Albert Lehman; his grandchildren, Tamisha LaShawn McClendon, Brandon Alexander Lehman and Cameron Alexander Lehman; his daughter-in-law, Barbara J. Lehman; and his favorite dog, Kai.

Plans for a memorial will be announced in due course.

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