Dyck, J. William (1918-1998)

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J. William "Bill" Dyck: university professor, born 10 February 1918 in the village of Samara located in the Mennonite settlements on the Volga River. Bill was the eldest child of Julius Dyck and Anna Wiebe Dyck. He had a younger brother and sister as well as two older half-sisters. On 9 June 1951 Bill married Sarah Dick (b. 28 September 1924), second daughter of Abram and Agatha Dick, at the Waterloo-Kitchener United Mennonite Church in Waterloo, Ontario. Bill and Sarah had two daughters, Julie and Vickie. He died 21 April 1998 in Waterloo.

His life travels took Bill from Russia, where he lived until 1945, to Germany (1945-1949) to the United States (1949-1957) and eventually to Canada (1957-1998). He was baptized in December 1950 and became a member of the Bethel College Mennonite Church.

Bethel College was the place where he received his BA, the University of Missouri his MA and the University of Michigan his PhD.  He taught at universities in Missouri and Michigan as well as at Oberlin College in Ohio. Bill moved to Waterloo and began teaching at Waterloo College, and then became one of the founding members of the new University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Arts. Under his vision and guidance as founding chairman, the departments of German and Russian grew into two well-known undergraduate and graduate programs eventually becoming the Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages and Literature (2007).

Throughout his career, Bill remained active as both a scholar and a teacher. His academic works encompassed many aspects of literature and were published in a range of prominent journals. His major books on Kleist and Pasternak were known to students and experts alike. His colleagues elected him president of their national association (CAUTG). He was the founder and long-time editor of the international scholarly journal Germano-Slavica. He was co-founder of the Waterloo-Mannheim exchange, the first exchange program between a German and a Canadian university. Bill supervised more than two dozen Masters and PhD. theses. Some of his candidates went on to assume professorial positions at universities around the world; others sought opportunities in school teaching, business and the public sector.

Bill lectured widely in German, Russian and English at universities in Canada, the United States, England, Germany, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark and Belgium. His life work was "to build bridges between cultures, languages and peoples." In recognition of his accomplishments and contributions to international scholarship and good will, Bill was named Distinguished Professor Emeritus, awarded medals of distinction (Silver Medal) from both the Universities of Waterloo and Mannheim. A Festschrift entitled Crisis and Commitment was published in his honor.

As a man of vision and determination, Bill is fondly remembered as "a man of considerable energy and intense feelings who fought for what he believed in. He was a good humanist who hoped for great things."


Crisis and Commitment: Studies in German and Russian Literature in Honour of J.W. Dyck. Waterloo, Ontario: University of Waterloo Press, 1983.

Author(s) Sarah Dyck
Julie Telfer
Date Published April 2009

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MLA style

Dyck, Sarah and Julie Telfer. "Dyck, J. William (1918-1998)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. April 2009. Web. 18 Jun 2018. http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Dyck,_J._William_(1918-1998)&oldid=80357.

APA style

Dyck, Sarah and Julie Telfer. (April 2009). Dyck, J. William (1918-1998). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 June 2018, from http://gameo.org/index.php?title=Dyck,_J._William_(1918-1998)&oldid=80357.

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