Dr. Zeno Vendler, a renowned philosopher and linguist who was one of the founding members of the U of C Department of Philosophy, passed away this month. Dr. Vendler died of kidney failure Jan. 13, while visiting family in his native Hungary.
"I had encountered Zeno at a philosophy conference," said then-Dean of Arts and Science Dr. Terence Penelhum, recalling his efforts to recruit Dr. Vendler for the fledgling University of Calgary philosophy department. "I didn't really have much hope of persuading him to come [to the U of C], but I thought it would be very foolish not to try."
Dr. Vendler's scholarly work concentrated on the areas of philosophy of language, philosophy of mind and technical linguistics, and he was considered an expert on Descartes.
"I think he was probably the most distinguished colleague I've had during my time at this university," said Dr. Penelhum, who has been at the U of C since 1963. "He was really quite a remarkable man."
In addition to his scholarly credentials, Dr. Vendler was fluent in five languages. His keen interest in geography went hand-in-hand with his love of travel. He visited every continent during his lifetime.
"[Dr. Vendler] was a dedicated and accomplished travel photographer who took pride in his ability to hold the camera still for a long enough time to take pictures in dark places with neither flash nor tripod," wrote Rochester Institute of Technology Professor Dr. Susan Fischer in his obituary on a linguistics website.
"He had lots of style, lots of hum- our," recalled Dr. Penelhum. "Just a very classy performer all around."
Dr. Vendler was born in Hungary to German-speaking parents in 1921. After completing his schooling in Hungary, he trained as a Jesuit priest at a Dutch seminary. Dr. Vendler went on to earn his PhD from Harvard. He joined the Philosophy Department at the U of C in 1965 and served a Department Head in 1971 before leaving the U of C in 1973.