Eleanor Harz Jorden, a summer resident of East Chop, Vineyard Haven or Chilmark all her life, died at home in Andover, Mass., on Feb. 18 at the age of 88. The pre-eminent authority on Japanese-language education in the United States, she had been battling progressive multiple sclerosis with great perseverance and emotional courage for more than 35 years.

Dr. Jorden was born in Brooklyn, N.Y. on Dec. 28, 1920, and educated at local schools, graduating from Packer Collegiate Institute in 1938. She went on to Bryn Mawr (A.B. in Latin, 1942) and Yale, earning a Ph.D. in linguistics in 1950.

While resident in Japan from 1949 to 1955 with her former husband, Bill Jorden, a foreign correspondent with the Associated Press and New York Times, she was director of the Japanese Language Program in the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo and founded the Foreign Service Institute Language School in the Embassy in 1953. During the late 1950s, while living in New York and Moscow, she did a major portion of the work on Beginning Japanese (with Hamako Ito Chaplin), the dominant Japanese-language textbook in the United States at the university level for close to three decades and now in its 40th printing. She was employed at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, D.C. from 1959 to 1969, chairing the Department of East Asian Languages for most of that time and also chairing the Vietnamese Language Division from 1967 to 1969.

Dr. Jorden moved to Cornell as a visiting professor of linguistics in 1969 and was granted tenure in 1972, the year in which she founded the Full-Year Asian Language Program (FALCON), which continues to be the only full-year, full-time, Japanese language program offered at an American university. She became the Mary Donlon Alger Professor of Linguistics in 1974 and held that chair until her retirement from Cornell in 1987. While at Cornell, she continued to write highly-regarded textbooks on both spoken and written Japanese, including Reading Japanese, an innovative attempt to assist students in developing a capacity to truly read Japanese, rather than merely decode into English. The culmination of her scholarly work was the three-volume Japanese: The Spoken Language (with Mari Noda), published in 1987 and now in its 10th printing, which combined meticulous structural analysis with unwavering attention to social context. Dr. Jorden was also a visiting professor at Williams College (on two occasions), the Universities of Iowa and Hawaii, and International Christian University during these years.

Upon retirement from Cornell, she became University Professor/Distinguished Fellow at the National Foreign Language Center at Johns Hopkins from 1987 to 1991, where she co-authored (with Richard Lambert) an exhaustive study of Japanese-language teaching in the United States that was to have a major impact on government policy toward Japanese-language teacher training in the late 80s and early 90s.

By the late 1970s, Dr. Jorden was widely recognized as the preeminent authority on Japanese-language education in the United States, and for the rest of the century it was uncommon to find an expert on Japan at any American university who had not studied one of her books. She was elected president of the Association of Teachers of Japanese for an unprecedented six consecutive terms from 1978 to 1984 and president of the Association of Asian Studies in 1980. In 1985, for her work in Japanese linguistics and pedagogy, Dr. Jorden was awarded the Order of the Precious Crown by the Emperor of Japan and was the first woman to receive the Japan Foundation’s highest honor, the Japan Foundation Award. She also received honorary doctorates from Williams, Knox and Middlebury Colleges and the University of Stirling (Scotland).

After retiring from Johns Hopkins in 1991, Dr. Jorden moved to the Quadrangle, a retirement community in Haverford, Pennsylvania where she was to live for the next 17 years. She continued to be active, writing books and articles, acting as a director and professor of an intensive Japanese-teacher-training program conducted each summer in a number of U.S. universities, assisting in an advanced English-language program at Bryn Mawr for promising Japanese intellectuals and public servants, participating in community governance, and even teaching Japanese to some Quadrangle residents. A legendary teacher, Dr. Jorden leaves thousands of devoted former students around the world, including the three students she taught up to the day before she left the Quadrangle.

In October of 2008, in failing health, Dr. Jorden moved to Massachusetts to live with her daughter, Telly, close to her son, Temple. She spent her last four months surrounded by her children, including her daughter, Tabi, who visited often from Switzerland, her six grandchildren, and her devoted son in law, Charlie Zanazzi, and daughter in law, Ise Jorden.

What is missing from the foregoing narrative is the Vineyard, which was always the place where Dr. Jorden (“Mudd”) was happiest. Her parents, Will and Ellie (“Curley”) Harz, first visited Edgartown in 1917 on the way back from Nantucket and immediately fell in love with it. Their first summer home was on Siloam avenue, off Sunset Lake, after which they moved to Pall Mall, above Crystal Lake. Curley’s mother soon moved to the Island as well, and lived in the Camp Ground at 2 County Park.

When Mudd was young, it was a world of Vineyard-blue days at the East Chop Beach Club, movies, ten-pin bowling, ice cream, sitting in Union Chapel with Georgie, Chickie and Carly Knight listening to Mr. Elmer on the organ while Curley sang, and, one summer, taking time away from her Sanskrit textbook to drive a tractor for Farmer Greene in West Tisbury. In 1948, it was living on the Island working on her dissertation while her husband, Bill, started his career as a journalist with the Gazette, learning his craft from Henry Beetle Hough.

And for almost 50 years it was sitting on the porch in Chilmark in August before dinner, watching and listening to her family as we grew and telling us Island stories: of swimming during the Hurricane of 1938; of her father, Will (known in his office as the “Mayor of Martha’s Vineyard”), taking a steamer from a pier on the North (now called the Hudson) River in Manhattan to New Bedford and on to the Island every Friday night from June to September for almost 20 years; of Mr. Hough and Scotty Reston first discussing the reorganization of the Gazette on that very porch in the summer of 1968. And it was on that porch that she would tell her grandchildren about the buoy off West Chop: the voice of the Island welcoming her just as Vineyard Haven came into view. The Island is where she will rest, beside her parents, and her children and grandchildren will never get off the ferry again without thinking of her, with more than much love.