Voices of Simmons

Remembering Professor Emeritus Dick Lyman

I write today with the sad news that Dick Lyman, Professor Emeritus of History, former History Department Chair, former Director of Simmons’ Asian Studies Program, and husband to Simmons Professor of Education Emerita Kathleen Dunn, died on August 23.

Professor Lyman came to Simmons in 1967, having earned his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College and his PhD from Harvard. A medievalist, Professor Lyman epitomized the ideal of lifelong learning, learning the Japanese language at mid-career and co-founding and later directing Simmons’ Asian Studies Program— even teaching Modern Japanese History both at Simmons and at Brandeis University after he retired from Simmons in 1998.

Professor and Alumni Chair of Public Humanities Laura Prieto remembered Professor Lyman as a vital and welcoming presence in the Simmons History Department:

“Dick Lyman was the History Department chair when I started at Simmons, I'll always remember him as a lively presence in the history department suite and in the classroom. He never stood on ceremony and was ever ready with a joke or laugh to brighten the mood.

“Dick was absolutely devoted to both teaching and learning,” Prieto recalled. “In fact, he was already mid-career when he developed his expertise in Chinese and Japanese history. Dick was a model lifelong learner; as a tenured professor, he joined undergraduates in a beginning Japanese language class.”

Lyman’s instructor in that Japanese language class was Professor Emerita Zhigang Liu, who also remembered him fondly:

“Dick talked to me almost every day the first few years I was at Simmons. He was fascinated with East Asia in general and Japanese culture in particular at the tail end of his career at Simmons, and took the initiative in creating the East Asian Studies Program along with [Professor of Economics] Masato Aoki and myself.”

Liu also remembered Professor Lyman as a diligent student in those Japanese language classes:

“Dick, of course, took the Japanese language class with me along with two other faculty members, Andy Reyes and Paul Abraham both of the Education Department. Dick was very diligent and hardworking, did all the extra work, and all three of them scored very high among the students.”

Like many Simmons faculty, Professor Lyman was not only a scholar by profession, it was also his calling. He maintained a great love of local history throughout his career, publishing articles on the history of towns in Central Massachusetts and founded the Sweden, Maine Historical Society—the town to which he retired later in life. Professor Lyman was well known
for giving historical lectures and walks around his town, and illustrating and printing his talks— traditions that became Sweden Days, a celebration held annually during the first weekend in August. Professor Lyman truly possessed a devotion and love for his scholarly craft that burned throughout his life and has touched so many here at Simmons and well beyond.

Professor Lyman is survived by his wife of 48 years, Simmons Professor Emerita of Education Kathleen Dunn, and together they loved to travel, both before and after retirement, visiting Japan, Vietnam, and China, and later, taking bicycle trips through Europe. Professor Lyman is also survived by his son, Richard Jeffrey Lyman and his wife, Leslie, his stepson, Jonathan Graves, as well as six grandchildren. On behalf of Professor Lyman’s colleagues, students, and the Simmons community, we send our deepest condolences.

- Lynn Perry Wooten

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