In Memoriam – Obituary for Hal Wingard

See CLTA’s Tribute to Hal Wingard in the July, 2009, wrap-around of “Language Magazine.”

Below see the obituary in in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

San Diego Union-Tribune


Hal Wingard; leader in development of foreign-language education

By Blanca Gonzalez, Union-Tribune Staff Writer
2:00 a.m. June 8, 2009

Hal Wingard used to say that his teaching skills saved his life.

Mr. Wingard was an Army infantry volunteer in Officer Training School during World War II. He was retained to instruct new recruits while others in his outfit were sent to the Battle of the Bulge, where they lost their lives.

Mr. Wingard went on to become a driving force in the development of foreign-language education in California and a pioneer in language-immersion programs.

Friends and colleagues also appreciated his sense of humor and his knack for writing songs that reflected his wit, wisdom and perspectives on life.

Mr. Wingard died of cancer May 25 at his San Diego home. He was 83.

Retired municipal court Judge Nick Kasimatis knew Mr. Wingard for more than 50 years, since their days as college roommates.

“We used to have philosophical discussions about just about everything under the sun,” Kasimatis said.

Mr. Wingard believed that people throughout the world could improve international relations if they got to know each other.

“He enjoyed learning about other people’s cultures, and he just loved languages,” Kasimatis said.

Mr. Wingard’s teaching career started in Los Angeles, where he taught English, social studies, German and journalism. He later created a TV series for the school district to help teach Spanish.

He spent a year in Germany, where he was a Fulbright exchange teacher, and also taught at a U.S. Army school in France.

He joined the San Diego Unified School District in 1966 and spent nearly two decades developing and overseeing foreign-language courses and programs.

His wife, Eileen, said his idea for language-immersion programs initially was shot down by district administrators, but when busing was instituted to achieve racial balance, the programs were deemed ideal for magnet schools.

“He initiated many programs and trained the teachers,” she said. “He was a born leader and a mentor to many educators.”

Colleague Duarte Silva said Mr. Wingard’s legacy includes establishing the California Language Teachers Association and promoting the idea that learning others’ languages and cultures leads to better understanding.

“The U.S. government has come to the (same) conclusion,” Silva said, noting that a new national initiative seeks to increase the number of Americans learning foreign languages.

“Every single policy involving language education in California has Hal Wingard’s imprimatur,” said Silva, executive director of the California Foreign Language Project at Stanford University.

The teachers association Mr. Wingard helped develop named an award for him and honored him with the first Hal Wingard Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995 in recognition of his dedication and service.

He was born March 21, 1926, in Los Angeles, the only child of Harry and Rose Weingard. Mr. Wingard later dropped the “e” from the family name. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA in 1951 with a degree in German. He also earned a teaching credential and a master’s degree in journalism from UCLA.

He met his future wife at UCLA, where she first noticed him when he gave the graduation speech. They happened to be in the same summer course and got to know each other. They married in 1952.

Friend Donald Harrison said the Wingard house was always filled with music and discussion. Eileen Wingard was a music teacher and violinist with the San Diego Symphony for many years.

“Hal had an incredible sense of humor and a wonderful sense of skepticism,” said Harrison, editor of San Diego Jewish World. “Hal was an atheist, and his wife is very connected to the Jewish community and quite religious. That was one of the wonderful things about their marriage. They were able to navigate (their differences) quite well.”

“He was not religious,” Eileen Wingard said of her husband. “But he was poetic and spiritual, and he was fun.”

Mr. Wingard is survived by his wife, Eileen; three daughters, Myla Wingard Rosen of Pacific Beach, Tamara Schiff of Tarzana and Harriet Wingard of Portland, Ore.; a son, Dan of Los Angeles; and four grandchildren.

Services have been held.

The family suggests contributions in his memory to Astor Judaica Library, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla, CA 92037; San Diego Symphony, 1245 Seventh Ave., San Diego, CA 92101; or Ohr Shalom Synagogue, 2512 Third Ave., San Diego, CA 92103-6511.

Blanca Gonzalez: (760) 737-7576;

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In March of 2001 when Hal was ending his year of transitioning out of this position of Executive Director of CLTA, IEFLA asked him to share some of his songs for a meeting. This is the introduction that was made for Hal on that occasion.

Hal Wingard

When we asked Hal to share with us today, he responded that he is just a “has been.”

For the last year he has been stepping out of his job as executive director of CLTA to be able to spend more time just doing what he wants.

We got to thinking about Hal being a “has been” and the more we did, the more impressed we became.


has been executive director of CLTA for many years.

has been a pioneer in developing innovative techniques for communicative language instruction.

has been an initiator of awards and recognition for outstanding teaching.

has been our voice to the state department of education.

has been our voice to the state legislative and executive branches.

has been our representative to national organizations.

has been the initiator of programs that have had and are having far-reaching affects in classrooms all over the state and all over the country.

has been available, supportive, and encouraging.

has been hard working, stalwart, perserverant, and tenacious.

has been a colleague, a friend, and a counsellor.

has been an inspiration.

has been self-giving and humble.

has been generous with his time and with his money.

has been a proud and loving father and a devoted husband.

We would like to have been just a little bit of what this “has been” has been.

Not only is he a “has been” but he is also a “still is.”