2 / My Background

The Franklin farmhouse (1983)

The Franklin farmhouse (1983)

I was raised on a small, non–descript farm in northeastern Pennsylvania, although I was born at a Methodist Campground during the depression. My parents had lived at the campground because they had little money, no steady work, and my grandfather offered them a cabin there. When I was about four, we moved to the farm–by that time we were four children. My mother was a trained teacher, so once we children were in school (except my two year old sister who, as I mentioned, was tragically killed in a car accident), mom returned to teaching. With a mother who was a teacher and a disciplinarian, we did our homework. Dad did any job he could find to support the family: he worked on the state and county roads, had a tour of duty in the coal mines, delivered vegetables, raised rabbits and sold their meat to hospitals, worked at a defense factory at the start of WWII, and finally had a moderately unsuccessful business as an electrician.

Bloomingdale (looking NE from farm)

Bloomingdale (looking NE from farm)

We lived in a country area called Bloomingdale, mainly defined by the crossroads at its country store; there were also two churches, a grange hall and a furniture store. I walked to school (uphill both ways) with my brother, who would not go without me, so I started grade one a year early. For eight years I attended the one–room country school at Bloomingdale where one teacher taught all the subjects to all the students. My high school (at Huntington Mills) was also small, with 19 in our graduating class and students choosing either the “agricultural” or “academic” stream. After listening to lectures on raising pigs and corn and watching John Deer movies for two years I decided to try the academic stream. By this time I had decided that I wanted to be a coach because I played baseball and soccer fairly well. In the so–called academic stream I enjoyed Latin and some of the mathematics, but never excelled in my studies. It was not my parent’s fault: dad was a frustrated scholar and studied all of his life. He took various correspondence courses, studied German, Russian, Egyptian history, religion and philosophy. Church was never his ‘thing’, although mom attended regularly.

Near the end of my senior year of high school (January 8, 1950) I had an encounter with God, whom I knew little about, and this changed the direction of my life. As a young believer, I wisely waited until the spring of that year to be baptized in a quite cold stream near the BP church in Koonsville, Pennsylvania. My young pastor’s interest in missions kindled my own and I decided to attend a Christian college, prepare for missionary work, and not become a coach.

2.1 / King’s College and the SMM

I attended The King’s College, then in Delaware, and in college I mainly remember working nights, sleeping in class, missing chapels, and playing varsity baseball and soccer. I floundered during the first two years before deciding that a degree in psychology would be the quickest way to graduate. At that time the Korean War was on (my brother had already enlisted in the Navy) and I was subject to the draft. However, there was a provision that by maintaining a satisfactory grade point average I could delay the draft until after graduation and then be considered for officer’s training. So for the next two years my grades improved and I stayed out of the army.

The best thing that happened to me in college was that I met Joice, with whom I attended many of my classes. By God’s grace, we ended up working on the same kitchen crew and got to know each other. By the time of graduation we were going steady and were both headed for the mission field. Joice graduated as valedictorian and I was “athlete of the year.” Since I had been interested in medicine and felt it would better prepare me for mission work, I went to California for a year to attend the Biola School of Missionary Medicine. In Los Angles I met Wycliffe members Les Bancroft, Bob Griffin and Bernie and Nancy May. Bernie and I had been classmates at King’s, both majoring in psychology and he and Bob were attending aircraft engineering school. I had an appointment with the secretary–treasurer of WBT, Ken Watters, in Glendale, to discuss how my interest in medicine might be used in Wycliffe. He informed me that they needed translators, not doctors, and suggested that I should attend SIL in Norman, Oklahoma after I married.

2.2 / Norman, Oklahoma and Jungle Camp in Mexico

Wedding – Joice and Karl (May 26, 1956)

Wedding – Joice and Karl (May 26, 1956)

Joice and I knew of SIL because the Greek professor at King’s had attended the SIL courses at the U. of Okahoma (in Norman, OK)  and recommended that we go there. That was our plan, but first we worked for a year (I at General Motors Truck and Coach and at a hospital pharmacy and Joice at a foundation office). We also attended Bible school in the evenings for a year in Detroit. We were married in May of 1956, and took our honeymoon on our way to study linguistics at the University of Oklahoma.

We hardly knew what the words morphology or syntax meant, but we soon learned, and found that we enjoyed the courses and, especially, the people we met. By the end of the summer we had joined Wycliffe and SIL. We went back to work in Michigan for a short and then, for three months, attended Jungle Camp in Mexico, where visits to Tzeltal, Lacandon, and Mixe Indian settlements. This introduced us to some of the realistic aspects of Bible translation work.

2.3 / Australia and PNG

Crossing a PNG river (Jim Dean 1968)

Crossing a PNG river (Jim Dean 1968)

In February 1958 we sailed to Australia and then traveled south to Melbourne to visit the SIL school and wait until our goods arrived in Lae, New Guinea. In Melbourne we met SIL and WBT members, Harland and Marie Kerr, who were in charge of the school. He was later to become one of my best friends. Here also I had time to explore the library of the school and start reading some of the materials on New Guinea. However, while we were there we received word that Joice’s dad had suddenly died of a heart attack in Pontiac, Michigan. There was no way that we could return to the U.S. and the Kerrs decided that we should take a break in Sydney at Marie’s home (her parents were gone for the summer). Across the street from Marie’s home a store proprietor and his wife, Tom and Elsie Hibberd, lived. They became our surrogate parents until they died and their eldest daughter and husband continue to be like family to us.

2.4 / To the Kewa

Joice and Kewa woman visiting (Muli, 1958)

Joice and Kewa woman visiting (Muli, 1958)

We flew to Port Moresby in a DC-4 and to Lae in a DC-3, actually a wartime parachute plane. In Lae we stayed at the Lutheran guesthouse and learned that the government was opening up a new area in the Southern Highlands. When Harland and Marie arrived later, Harland and I surveyed the Kewa and Wiru language areas — with considerable help from the Lutheran missionary and government officers in Ialibu. Both language areas had restricted access because of limited contact by the government, but we were allowed to settle in hamlets at the boundaries of the so-called “controlled” areas. We began studying Kewa in August 1958. Prior to settling in the Kewa hamlet of Muli, we were called upon by SIL to do support work, such as building roads, hauling logs for the sawmill, and other tasks at Ukarumpa. Once in the village, SIL had no radio or aviation service available, so until early 1963 we relied on MAF for occasional deliveries and the Lutheran and Catholic missions for logistical assistance. The people were completely monolingual (spoke no language except Kewa) so we began to learn the language by pointing, mimicking and guessing what the people were saying.

2.5 / More experiences

Kirk with Kewa friends (1961)

Kirk with Kewa friends (1961)

In April 1959 Kirk was born at a Lutheran jungle hospital (Jagaum) near Madang on the northeast coast. During our later stays in the village he became fluent in Kewa as his first language. However, during our first term Harland and I were assigned to go to the Gazelle Peninsula (East New Britain) to work on the Tolai language and prepare a language learning course for government officers. Since Harland and Marie had spent two years in the Philippines, he was already familiar with Austronesian languages and quickly grasped the structure of Tolai. With the help of a veteran Methodist missionary and well–educated Tolai speakers, we completed the book, which was later published. In 1960 the SIL Branch director, Dr. Jim Dean, asked Joice and me to serve on staff at a six–week government–sponsored Linguistics Course and then, the next year, to head it up. Also, about this time Professor Ken Pike came to PNG to run a 3 month workshop and train consultants. I worked with him on syntax and Joice worked with him on tone. Near the end of the workshop Dr. Pike asked me if I had considered attending graduate school. Thinking of my college grades I said, “I don’t think I could get into graduate school.” His reply, “Where would you like to go?” Cornell was not far from my home in Pennsylvania and by the fall of 1963, by virtue of Pike’s recommendation, we located in Ithaca. The irony of me, a country boy, attending an Ivy League school was not lost.

2.6 / Cornell and summer SILs

I enjoyed linguistics at Cornell, worked as a teaching assistant in phonetics and helped Professor Charles Hockett in other ways. My favorite courses, however, were in anthropology. I received an MA from Cornell in February 1965, although I had finished all the requirements by the middle of September 1964. The M.A. oral examination was also a qualifying examination for the Ph.D., which I passed. However, I had no desire of studying more at Cornell because we wished to get back to PNG.

We were at Norman again in the summer of 1964 to teach linguistics at the first support course under the direction of Bernie May. (We had been there the summer of 1963 to attend a workshop led by Joe Grimes and Darlene Bee.) Again we were surprised by Pike: this time he asked us to start an SIL in New Zealand the summer (December to February) of 1965. It turned out that Harland Kerr had recommended me for the job.

2.7 / Administrative work then ANU

We went back to PNG in the fall of 1964 intending to re-establish our work among the Kewa people, but another surprise awaited us. I was elected as the first Associate Director for Language Affairs and the Director persuaded another team to take our place. A year later Professor Stephen Wurm, of the Australian National University, (ANU) visited Ukarumpa during a linguistics survey of the Highlands. By this time Joice and I had published some articles and Prof. Wurm encouraged me to apply for a PhD scholarship at ANU. Once my Branch administrative work with SIL was completed (it was a two year term) and after the birth of our daughter, Karol, we headed up the NZ school again and following that period began studies in Canberra. Professor Wurm was my thesis chairman and a Dutch linguist, Dr. Bert Voorhoeve, my immediate advisor. I thoroughly enjoyed the interdisciplinary seminars at ANU, including interaction with linguists and anthropologists. We also made good friends at the house church we attended in the capital.

2.8 / Fieldwork

To complete my dissertation I needed more fieldwork in a different dialect area of Kewa. Joice and I took up residence in the hamlet of Usa and I completed a dialect survey of the Kewa area and wrote a grammar (Franklin 1968, 1971). My oral examination took place at the University of Port Moresby (PNG) in July 1969, with Howard McKaughan (then at the University of Hawaii), Andy Pawley (Auckland University) and Ralph Bulmer (Foundation Professor of Anthropology at the University of Papua New Guinea) as my examiners. The degree was awarded in September 1969. Based upon my dialect–related research of languages adjacent to the Kewa area, I knew that there was a paucity of linguistic data on the Gulf area to the south. Therefore, I applied for and received a post–doctorate fellowship from ANU to do a linguistic survey of the Gulf Province. I enlisted the aid of scholars and colleagues and edited a book containing descriptions and classifications of the area (Franklin. ed. 1973).

2.9 / More administrative work and BTA

During 1969–70 we took a short furlough in Pennsylvania where I substitute taught in a high school and we did the general work of “deputation.” When we returned to PNG we had several years of uninterrupted research and translation work, undoubtedly the most productive and best learning times of our lives. We were accepted and adopted into the Nemoa clan and its sub–clans and worked intensively on literacy and translation, with the culmination of the work being the West Kewa New Testament, dedicated in 1973. However, in 1972 I had been elected Director of the PNG Branch, so for the next four years I served in that position and on the SIL International Board of Directors. One of my major concerns was that PNG was soon to become an independent nation and we did not have senior nationals advising SIL on its work. Consequently, in 1973 I worked with Associate Directors Harry Weimer and Don Gates to establish an SIL Advisory Committee of PNG nationals. In 1976, under the leadership of Bruce Hooley and Tom Polume, it was incorporated as the Bible Translation Association of PNG (called BTA). I also served on the Governing Board of the neighboring Aiyura National High School, including a period as its chairman.

2.10 / Dallas

At the conclusion of our second term as Branch director, Kirk graduated from Ukarumpa High School and we decided to take an assignment in Dallas while he settled back into the U.S. culture. I was invited to be the International Linguistics Coordinator (Cal Rensch was the Vice President of Academic Affairs) and during that time I started Notes on Linguistics and interacted with the faculty at the University of Texas at Arlington, where several years later I was appointed as an Adjunct Professor of Linguistics.

2.11 / BTA and then Dallas again

By 1980 Kirk was well settled in the US and the SIL Director, Dr. Bruce Hooley, invited us back to PNG to develop a National Translator’s Training Program, assisted by Bob Litteral and BTA director David Gela. Although we had only six students — and only one who had attended university — the experience led to the development of future courses. During the year of 1980–81 I also worked closely with David getting BTA more firmly established and supervised a linguistic survey of Manus Province, ably carried out by Steven and Janice Schooling. A year later I was again elected director of the Branch, serving until shortly before Karol graduated from high school in 1983 and we returned to Dallas. In Dallas we once again served with the Academic Affairs, this time in training and as the International Anthropology Coordinator for two years. A highlight was when Vick Halterman and I organized an anthropology conference, which was well attended, and the results were published (Franklin, ed. 1987). Texas SIL had many students at this time and I taught grammar and other courses there and at UTA.

2.12 / Academics and editing

In 1987 we returned to PNG, this time to head up the Branch academic department under the leadership of the Branch director, Dr. Ger Reesink. In association with Dr. John Verhaar of Divine Word Institute (now a university), I edited materials for the journal Language and Linguistics in Melanesia and two years later I took over the editorship of the journal from him. We were also able to visit the Kewa area several times to assess the need for a NT revision and encourage literacy. During the 1970s we had conducted language learning courses in Kewa for expatriate missionaries and orthography classes for national teachers in the Kewa area. However, interest in the revision was low, partly due to growing social problems in the Southern Highlands. We cast about, wondering what our next assignment would be.

2.13 / SPSIL and Dallas yet again

At this time the Pacific Area office was looking for someone to head up the SIL school at Kangaroo Ground. We took up that assignment for three years, beginning in 1991, and eventually got the school started on an accreditation track. Near the end of our time at Melbourne, we were asked by the Executive Director of SIL International, Steve Sheldon, to consider taking up the role of International Coordinator for Training.

The Training Coordinator role involved visiting the various SIL training programs, which now included several Christian Colleges, as well as maintaining standards and establishing roles in worldwide programs. Two years later, in 1996, I was appointed by the SIL International Board to be the Vice President of Academic Affairs, which I accepted for five years.

At the conclusion of my term as VPAA, Paul Frank took over. The role had been a challenging and frustrating one. It was challenging because I sensed (and had observed in PNG) a diminishing academic ethos in the organization and a move towards SIL being involved in church-like activities while at the same time WBT and The Seed Company were becoming involved in fieldwork. The home and fieldwork roles and responsibilities of the organizations were becoming blurred. It was also frustrating because many of the academic departments had little resources while others seemed to have more due to their income generating capacities. Probably my main contribution was to help start the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL). David Ross, the Director, and I presented a proposal to the Board of SIL in 1997 and the school was officially separated from SIL Texas to begin its own life. I also served on the Board of GIAL and was its chairman for two years. In December 2005 the school has been accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to grant M.A. degrees in Applied Linguistics and also in Language Development.

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