Dr. John H. LaPrade: We Remember with Gratitude and Sadness



In fond memory

With great sadness Sigma Delta Pi reports that President Emeritus John H. LaPrade passed away on Sunday afternoon, March 1, 2015 in the comfort of his home in Dallas, Texas and accompanied by Margaret Ann, his loving wife of over 61 years.

“John,” as many of us knew him, had a remarkable history of leadership in Sigma Delta Pi that began when he became Chapter Adviser at Southern Methodist University in 1963.  In addition to his 37 years of local leadership, John also held numerous regional and national offices for the Society to include  inaugural State Director of North Texas (1966-72), Vice-President of the Southwest for three consecutive terms (1972-83), Director of  the then Southwest Regional Literary and Scholarship Contests (1975-83), National Election Committee Chair (1989), National President for two terms (1992-98), National Scholarship Committee Member (2006), President Emeritus (2001-2015), and National Executive Committee Member (1992-2015).  The impact John made on our beloved organization during his 40+ years of service is immeasurable, and his contributions far too numerous to list here.

However, what made Dr. LaPrade’s leadership so memorable and powerful was his consistently “gentle and unassuming way,” the words used by the late Dr. Richard E. Chandler, past National President of Sigma Delta Pi.  Those of us who worked closely with John were always impressed with his persistent, selfless devotion to the Society as he repeatedly avoided praise for his work.  As just one of the countless examples of John’s humility, during an Executive Committee Meeting in Lafayette, Louisiana in the early 2000s, a colleague proposed that a national award be named after John in order to honor his decades of selfless service.  John swiftly and adamantly rejected the idea while claiming that the notable contributions of his predecessors such as T. Earle Hamilton, Ignacio Galbis and Dick Chandler, were much more deserving of recognition.  He also declared that if he were to be remembered for anything, it should be his role in successfully advocating for the future national leadership of the organization. In other words, he preferred to take pride in the success of the colleagues he had mentored to lead Sigma Delta Pi.

The only way to acknowledge John directly and successfully was to surprise him, which fortunately the Society managed to do on multiple occasions: in 1998, Dr. LaPrade was inducted into the Orden de Don Quijote during the Triennial Convention in Madrid, Spain; in 2001, Past President Germán D. Carrillo named John “President Emeritus,” and in 2007, John was named an inaugural co-recipient of the Jorge Luis Borges, one of Sigma Delta Pi’s highest honors for lifetime achievement.  This latter occasion was particularly memorable because Doug LaPrade, John’s son, accepted the award on his father’s behalf.

I had the privilege of working with John directly during his presidency when I was appointed Executive Secretary-Treasurer in 1997.  John was not only “gentle and unassuming,” but he was infinitely patient with a young colleague who had much to learn about managing the finances and operations of the largest collegiate foreign language honor society in the U.S.  I will forever be grateful for John’s constant guidance and support, especially back in September 1998 when the then newly-elected National President suddenly resigned, thereby requiring me to assume the role of Acting President after barely only one year as Executive Secretary-Treasurer.  A terrifying prospect was made manageable by John LaPrade’s generous and wise aid.

As we reflect on Dr. John LaPrade’s legacy, let’s remember a selfless  man whose dedication, loyalty and vision were in large part responsible for the success of our Society today.  “Spanías Didagéi Proágomen,” John…  You will be sorely missed, but never forgotten.

Mark P. Del Mastro
Executive Director, Sigma Delta Pi
College of Charleston, Charleston, S.C.