Kenneth E. Naylor was a professor whose research was world-renowned but spent much of his time, too, as an adviser and mentor to students. Consider this: During his 26-year career at Ohio State, Naylor supervised seven Ph.D dissertations and was adviser to 31 master’s degree recipients. He served on more than 30 University committees, both at the College department levels. In a Lantern article published after Naylor’s 1992 death, David Patton, assistant director of the Center for Slavic and Eastern European Studies, said: “He always went the extra mile, and that’s how he’ll be remembered by students and colleagues.”
Naylor, who was born in 1937 in Philadelphia, was first and foremost an expert on Slavic languages and culture. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1958 from Cornell University and his master’s degree in 1960 from Indiana University. From there, he studied at the University of Chicago, taking a year off to study at the University of Novi Sad in Yugoslavia with renowned linguist Pavle Ivic. He returned to complete his dissertation on Yugoslav linguistics at the University of Chicago and was awarded his Ph.D in 1966.
He came to Ohio State as a Professor of Slavic Linguistics, later becoming a specialist in Slavic and Baltic Linguistics and Culture. He was known for his knowledge of the area, both at home and abroad. In 1984 he received the “Jubilee Medal 1300 Years of Bulgaria” from the People’s Republic of Bulgaria and in 1989 the “Order of Yugoslav Flag with Gold Wreath” from the Republic of Yugoslavia for his study of the Serbo-Crotian language and Yugoslav literature, as well as supporting cultural ties between Yugoslavia and the U.S.
In 1990, Naylor was called to testify before the U.S. House of Representatives, Foreign Affairs Committee on the ethnic rivalry in Yugoslavia and the development of a Serbo-Croatian language. He was commended by those he met in Washington for his clear testimony and demeanor, as well as his knowledge of the area and the people.
Dr. Naylor continued to teach at Ohio State until his death on March 10, 1992.