Anthropologist, mentor, scholar, and colleague Joan Stevenson, died far too soon on Monday, Dec. 4. Since joining the Western faculty and Department of Anthropology in 1979, she shared her breath of knowledge, deep curiosity, and generosity of time and kindness so as to inspire in others further understanding and work regarding human health and societal wellbeing. Her career is one of whose groundings, directions, and impacts are strongly centered around collaborative research and both empirical and ethical inquiry.
Dr. Stevenson received her master's degree and doctorate in Anthropological Genetics of European populations as represented by immigrants to the USA while working with the immunologist Rene Duquesnoy and biological anthropologist and forensic anthropologist/ immune-geneticist, Moses Schanfield.
Upon arriving at Western, she initiated research that could be supported in a Department with a heavy teaching load and a single physical anthropologist. Over the past 38 years, Stevenson has excelled in her field and is widely recognized in the discipline. She was a prolific writer and published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology; American Journal of Human Biology; Quarterly Review of Biology; Human Biology; International Journal of Anthropology; and Social Biology to name a few. She often collaborated with colleagues and students on topics ranging through Mennonite demography, the evolution and human biology of ADHD, statistical tools for sexing skulls, disease ecological impacts on Seward Peninsula peoples, and the community-building nature of the production of pottery in the US Southwestern pueblos. Stevenson’s diverse research interests were an asset as a medical anthropologist, and lately her interest spread to food allergies and the role of diet in the treatment of a variety of pathologies.
She taught forensic anthropology/human osteology, basic statistics, research design, medical anthropology, human evolution, and introductory physical anthropology, as well as interdisciplinary graduate research methods courses. She assisted in the development of the biology/anthropology BA/BS majors housed in Biology and developed the biocultural track in the Dept of Anthropology, all of which are popular preparations for applied health careers.
Her service to the university was vast in its scope, she served on every important committee at the College and University level at WWU often several times including, Faculty Senate; Curriculum Committee; Graduate Council; Health & Wellness; and Human Subjects Review Board. In the department, Stevenson also served as the Chair, Graduate Advisor, Premed Advisor, and undergrad advisor for the Bio/Anth BA/BS and Biocultural majors. She chaired well over a hundred thesis committees and served on many others.
In the community, Stevenson consulted on identification of human remains for police agencies since the early 1980’s. She worked closely with many Western Washington Tribes in identifying ancestral remains, and was heavily involved with the Lummi and Colville Nations in their efforts to identify and repatriate ancestral remains.
Joan Stevenson leaves a truly impressive legacy. Her guidance and the knowledge imparted to thousands of undergrad and graduate students have helped them to excel, academically and professionally. She was a stellar campus community member, and served WWU well for over 35 years. She will be missed by us all. May she rest in peace.
SAVE THE DATE: There will be an on-campus memorial for Joan Stevenson on Thursday, Jan 18, at noon in AH04.