With profound sadness we announce the passing of Dr. Harry F. Wolcott on October 31, 2012. Harry had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease and more recently, from esophageal cancer.
A student of George Spindler at Stanford University, Harry graduated with his Ph.D. in 1964 and immediately began his professorial career in the College of Education at the University of Oregon, where he remained until he retired in 1999 as Professor Emeritus of Anthropology (http://pages.uoregon.edu/
Harry was in on the “ground floor” of the emerging field of educational anthropology, serving as the Council on Anthropology and Education’s fourth president (1972-73), and, with Elizabeth Eddy, sharing the inaugural George and Louise Spindler Award (1989). Harry launched his editorship of Anthropology and Education Quarterly (1983-85) with his own lead article, the first in the “Sneaky Kid” trilogy. Over the years he provided the methodological backbone for our discipline, seamlessly interweaving the applied and the theoretical, raising tough – even courageous – questions of validity in ethnographic research, innovating new forms of research such as autoethnography, and bringing the arts into mainline anthropology. Through his writings, mentorship, and personal encounters he was one of the most influential scholars in the field of educational anthropology.
Harry’s students remember him as “a demanding but extremely helpful dissertation advisor,” a “wonderful colleague and friend, highly intelligent and very funny,” a “generous dinner host,” a “life-time doktorvater who read and critiqued his former students’ book manuscripts and journal article drafts many years after they completed their work with him,” a “true mentor and friend” who drew students from around the world, and “a wonderful scholar, teacher, doctoral supervisor, and friend.” He was an educator in every sense of the word: Who but Harry could wrangle a year of intensive field work documenting the role of African beer gardens in Bulawayo society, and then use the published results to inspire his students on the distinction between etic and emic research perspectives?
Harry will be honored at a session of this year’s AAA Meeting scheduled for 4-5:45 pm Wednesday, November 14 (Hilton Franciscan D). The session will engage the corpus of Harry’s work and, in lieu of his planned discussant commentary, will provide an opportunity for those in attendance to remember him and to reflect on his many contributions to the field. In addition, plans are under way to establish a new CAE award in Harry’s name for exemplary contributions to “Genuine Ethnography in Education” (as defined by Harry).
According to Harry’s wishes, there will be no funeral or service. His obituary will appear in The Eugene Register Guard on Sunday, November 4. Harry is survived by his long-time partner, Norman Delue, and a legion of former students and colleagues. Cards may be sent to his home address: 85711 S. Willamette St., Eugene, OR 97405.
Harry will be greatly missed in the field of anthropology and education. He leaves an unforgettable legacy in his scholarship, his students, and all those whose lives he touched and changed for the better.
Teresa L. McCarty