Mongolia Collection: John C. Street

This subject research guide provides information on Western Libraries' Mongolia and Inner Asia Collection.

John C. Street (1930-2017)

Biographical Note

John C. (“Jack”) Street was born in Chicago on April 3, 1930, son of The Rev. (later Rt. Rev.) Charles Larrabee Street and Louise (Rouse) Street, then of Sycamore, Illinois. After his 1947 graduation from St. Mark’s School in Southboro, MA, he attended Yale University, earning BA, MA, and PhD degrees by 1955, the last of these in the field of linguistics. Following two years in the U.S. Army, he taught at Michigan State University, Columbia University, and the University of Washington before taking a tenured position in the Linguistics Department at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1963. While teaching courses in general linguistics there, his research specialty for fifty years was the language used in Mongolia during the 13th century -- particularly a document called The Secret History of the Mongols, composed in 1227 -- which in effect is a life of Genghis (properly Chinggis) Khan by those who know him. Most of his published books and articles relate to that document, or other varieties of Mongolian. Dr. Street retired as Emeritus Professor of Linguistics in 1993. After 1983 he also published six books on family genealogy.

As registered in his many publications, Dr. Street’s record of scholarly engagement spanned decades and continued into his retirement. In 2010 (Vol. 54, Issue 2) Central Asiatic Journal published, in German, an article translated as "John Charles Street: The Life and Work of a Mongolist and Altaiist Dedicated to His 80th Birthday," by Michael Knüppel. A colleague and protégé of Dr. Nicholas Poppe at the University of Washington, Dr. Street continued to advocate for and support the multi-disciplinary study of Mongolia, making him an excellent partner and collaborator with retired Western Washington University history professor Dr. Henry G. Schwarz, an expert on Mongolia in his own right and a major supporter of Mongolian Studies at Western.

There was one non-academic accomplishment for which Dr. Street was especially proud: the restoration of an 1878 stone salt-box house in Berry Township, northwest of Madison. Thanks to sheer luck he was able to purchase the fine old house – with considerable acreage and part of a small lake – for a very reasonable price in 1965. After much physical labor, and professional replacement of wiring, plumbing, etc., he moved into the house in 1966, and lived there (with his wife, after marriage in 1975) for over thirty years. In the meantime, with the help of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, he was able to get the building listed on the National Register of Historic Places; and in 1974 sold the lake property on his farm to the Dane County Parks Department for what has since then been called Indian Lake County Park.

Dr. Street died on Sunday, August 6, 2017 at Agrace HospiceCare in Janesville, WI. Burial was in the family lot in Chicago’s Oak Woods Cemetery. He was preceded in death by his wife of 40 years, Eve Baker Street (1945-2014).

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