For decades, the Department of Anthropology has taken pride in being a small department with a global impact. Faculty, staff, students and alumni reunited on April 4 to celebrate Anthropology’s 40th anniversary at a special event in McKeldin Library. View photos from the event.
"Our 40th anniversary event had a wonderful turn-out. Alumni from the 1960s to last year were able to share stories and create a sense of heritage and community for our department," said Dr. Paul Shackel, chair of the department.
In addition to honoring the department's past, alumni and distinguished guests were given good news for the department's future. At the event, it was announced that an anonymous donor has made a commitment to establish the department’s first endowed chair. The Dr. Ellis R. Kerley Chair in Anthropology will honor the life and legacy of the founding chair of the department; providing crucial support to ensure faculty excellence.
"Great departments need great faculty, great college support, and more than ever, philanthropic support. This gift is a landmark moment for our Department of Anthropology," Dr. Shackel said.
Special guests at the event included two of Dr. Kerley's daughters, Laurelann Bundens and Amy Kerley Moorhouse, who shared memories of their father and reflected on his illustrious career. Dr. Kerley is considered to be the father of foresnic anthropology, and is well-known for the Kerley Method of the age dating of specimens. Dr. Kerley worked on a number of high-profile cases, including the identification of the remains of Josef Mengele, the former Nazi surgeon known as the "Butcher of Auschwitz".
Started in the 1960s as part of the Department of Sociology under the leadership of Aubrey Williams, Anthropology became a department in 1973, under the leadership of Dr. Kerley. From the very first, the department’s renowned faculty members focused on providing one-on-one teaching and learning experiences. Students have had the opportunity to work on research projects, lab experiences and archaeological field schools that have shed light on cultures and societies, strengthened environmental sustainability efforts, and opened doors to new avenues of study.
“Sometimes, these learning experiences were about confronting major social issues—like the anti-Vietnam War protests. I can only imagine what it was like for the 18- or 19-year-old Anthropology major marching down Route 1 to protest the war being confronted by his or her 19-year-old classmate who was in the National Guard. These were tense times on campus, and Anthropology was in the center of many of these events,” Dr. Shackel said.
No matter the decade or the subject, students in the Department of Anthropology have always learned from the best.
“When you look at the roster of faculty who have taught in our program, we have enough scholars to make an all-star team. We now have on staff several generations of faculty ready to join this distinguished group of scholars,” Dr. Shackel said.
In the 1980s, the faculty developed the M.A.A. program, in 2007, the Ph.D. program was established. The department continues to grow and to have a significant impact on the College, the University, and beyond.
“Our department has overcome major obstacles, and our faculty, students and alumni have always had the goal of being part of the solution. This perspective has led us through the years and helped us address many of our community and global needs,” Dr. Shackel said. “Our alumni have made significant contributions to making our world a better place to live, either by working in the private sector, working for NGOs, working for government agencies, or earning academic positions in top-ranked universities. And every year I am more impressed with the caliber of our students, as well as the achievements of our alumni.”