Celebration of Anne Ch'iens Career
Hello everyone – my name is Joe Masco and I’m the current Chair of the Department of Anthropology. It’s my duty and great pleasure to welcome you here tonight as we celebrate the brilliant career of Anne Ch’ien.
You all know Anne as the indomitable spirit that has kept Anthropology running for the past three decades. In thinking about what to say tonight, I have been reflecting on how bonkers life in the Department of Anthropology actually is: Faculty and Doctoral Students all come from somewhere else, land in Chicago, and spent every waking moment thinking about getting to some third place. Everyone is riding on the edge of their abilities and trying to figure out how to do and say something new and important. The community attached to Haskell Hall is perpetually in motion and the global logistics of the department in any given week are nothing short of monumental.
This means that every one of us has had the day when it all breaks down, when faced with the unsolvable problem – administrative, research related, personal – something breaks. And on those days, odds are the best answer for so many people in this room and on this Zoom call has been to walk unannounced into Anne’s office and deliver your problem. I know each of you has a story like this – I have so many! In such a situation, Anne would do what she has done so powerfully – apply her great mind, her generous spirit, her empathy – and then send you back out into the world in a better place, with a world that makes a bit more sense than it did a minute ago – it might even be one you might actually want to live in. Anne’s contribution, of course, is not merely to the University of Chicago but via the great network of former faculty and students to the profession itself – it is a singular accomplishment.
So perhaps you won’t be surprised to learn that in sharing the news of Anne’s pending retirement the most common response has been a kind of disbelief, an acknowledgement of the “tectonic” change it represents for the department, a feeling of free fall, and of course a great deal of affection and gratitude for Anne. Late this past summer – just when it started to look like it might really happen – even Haskell Hall responded to the news – the northeast foundation just outside of Anne’s office suddenly dropped and cracked. The repair crews have been busily shoring up the foundation – offering me various technical explanations and future projections – but we all know the real reason: Haskell Hall – and all that goes on within it -- will never be the same without Anne.
As a final note, during the past two years chairing during these challenging times, I am also feeling the shifting conditions and problems of balance, not sure about my foundations. But I can say without a doubt it has been both a pleasure and an honor to work you Anne - thank you!
Ode to Anne Ch'ien
Oh, Anne, what will we be without you?
What will the denizens of Haskell do?
We'll be Lady Liberty without her torch
Like Chicago summers without their scorch
Like Mozart without his Magic Flute
Or a Mac device that won't compute.
Other departments have envied us Anne
The ever-present, always-knowing, who always can
Save the struggling student from summary ejection
Cheer up the faculty from overload dejection
Last minute courses, red tape fuss
When the administration strikes, who will rescue us?
Do you need a letter fast, for your application?
It flies off her machine, without hesitation.
Day or night, it is truly astonishing
She's our guardian angel, yet never admonishing.
That candy-basket; her smile at defenses
For thirty-odd years: it's love she dispenses.
Oh, dedicated historian of seminar-Mondays!
How do we love thee? Let us count the ways:
Our love is as vast as Regenstein's books
Wide as the Lake from the Promontory looks,
As high as the CDs stacked by your walls
Deep as emotion in opera's curtain calls.
We love thee as you love East Asian art,
Or Puccini's best and Anthropology's start.
You're free now to travel, but here's the gist:
Back in Haskell Hall, you'll be sorely missed.
If this be error and upon me proved
No group was ever grateful, nor by respect deeply moved.
I thought it would be instructive to speak on Anne's contributions to our efforts to turn the Anthropological Students Association into a vehicle for the union project (broadly conceived)—in other words, to integrate organizing and advocacy into the regular socializing.
Because Anne is truly a model advocate. You go into her office, and you don't simply get a kindly helping of sympathy along with the usual outline of (obscure) regulations and (limited) resources. Instead, Anne shows us her solidarity by really thinking through our situations with us, giving us the gift of her unique and quite interesting perspective of this institution. She helps us make sense of the relationships in play, and the history of those relationships, and the patterns of the histories of those relationships. In this sense, she recruits our ethnographic sensibilities to the very practical project of getting by in this vocation. And in this way, she made it not only important, but actually quite interesting, to reflect upon what this institution could do. Because she also leaves us with this crazy expectation to be treated like a grown-up—whole persons with lives, struggles, and deeply-felt quests for understanding. As our entry-point to the department and university, Anne creates a default in comparison to which the administration will always be in deficit.
I can sense Anne walking through the Mezzanine, delivering our mail, while we meet: she laughs with us; she groans with us; she stops to answer a question and ends up answering a couple more we didn't know we had. She's just passing by, subtly tuned in, as we are all tuned in to her. Because the students share a relation to Anne in common: a role no faculty could ever serve.
For this, Anne, I name you the glue of our collective sovereignty. Now, I have always been loath to be called a department citizen. But if I am, then Anne is queen mother. She is the star around which we all orbit—the surest source of light and heat in the cold, empty space of academia. She is our Glinda the Good Witch, without whom we would have never formed a band and taken our demands to the wizard. Anne gave us the shoes, the secret to using them, and showed us the way.
Count me among those forever in your debt and forever at your service. And among those who would definitely subscribe to an email blast on your post-retirement insights and adventures.
Tribute to Anne Ch’ien
Many of us have been saying in private, and in this public celebration of Anne, that without her, the Department of Anthropology will never be the same. In saying so, we are expressing our love, not just for Anne herself, but for the culture and environment she created. She made Haskell Hall an island of thoughtfulness, reason, and caring where everyone was welcomed, and all serious work was strongly supported.
But over these Anne Ch’ien decades, the department has, in fact, never actually been “the same.” The conditions in which we have tried to study and educate have changed constantly. Year after year, as we faculty tried to conserve our notion of Anthropology’s “great tradition” at the University of Chicago, it has been Anne who had to adjust to imperatives from above and outside, facing new regulations that partly undermined our own sense of mission. Often these changing demands involved a lot more data sent upward from Haskell 119, many patiently-crafted justifications for our approaches to College teaching and graduate careers, and endless meetings where Anne had to figure out what we could continue to get away with. With the result usually being, more work for Anne. In the end, in this transforming river into which no one can step twice, or even once, Anne has been the navigator and guide for faculty and students. She has helped us concentrate on the most rewarding parts of teaching and mentorship; she has helped everyone sustain their projects and goals, and find the most satisfying path forward through not-always-friendly terrain; and she has placated the division and the university in ways that faculty and students never had to worry about.
So, yes, Haskell Hall will never be the same without you, Anne. Though we never have been the same from year to year, quarter to quarter, we owe our many continuities to you. Ten thousand thanks for ten thousand things!
For Anne Ch’ien
In 2001, I entered the PhD Program in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Chicago and became, effectively, one of Anne Ch’ien's many students.
Anne, your work, your time, your attention, your careful eyes, and your judicious but persistent way of applying pressure just where pressure is needed has made you an anchor of Chicago Anthropology for several generations of its students. This is not an overstatement. If anything, it is an understatement.
Every single person I came through this program with has many stories about how Anne's careful touch made something important happen at a critical moment; everything from a grant proposal filed or a reference letter pulled together to a position landed or a career started. And then there are the less obvious but equally big things that have pushed your students' thinking and writing forward: a sound place to study and write, a seemingly bottomless candy basket... but also a considered and persistent nudge toward specific people, courses, and conversations that always end up pulling students' ideas and projects in directions that are as surprising as they are gratifying.
As you know, Anne is in the habit of attending many defenses and seminars. And in our habit, she takes copious notes. One of my classmates, I think it was Sarah Muir, remarked on this once. Sarah noted that she was looking forward to Anne's revision of contemporary Anthropology. Certainly Anne has the notes. Yes: I can't wait for that book. Yet let's not forget that this book already exists. Just look at all the times Anne Ch’ien emerges within the acknowledgements of her students' theses, dissertations, and books for a way into it.
I wish I could be there in person, Anne, to look you in the eye and say: "Thank You."
From: Cassie Fennell, but really I'm thinking on what I've heard about Anne's work from so many fellow students while we were in and beyond Chicago's PhD program.
My friend and fellow speech writer, Ali Feser, reminded me to state the obvious right away: Anne, we love you, and we are forever grateful for all that you did for us!
(Ali unfortunately couldn’t join tonight, but she sends everyone her very best.)
I can’t tell you how many meek-but-desperate little knocks at her office door Anne must have weathered. My embarrassing style was as follows: “Uh. Sorry to interrupt you, Anne. I can see you’re emailing with hundreds of applicants—the literal future of the Department. But I was wondering: Did that reimbursement check for $26.22 that I spent on petit-bourgeois workshop cheese arrive?”
Or another contrasting variant I often witnessed: (Crashing in) “Hey Anne!” (Grabs handful of candy, gestures wildly, leaves abruptly, belching…) “OFFICE HOURS…” (Meanwhile Anne is busy deftly navigating a pressing one-on-one with a first-year heir to a cryptocurrency fortune frightened to discover that their pet turtle might be lactose intolerant. Too much leftover workshop cheese.)
These anecdotes—fictionalized to protect anonymity—are among the many reasons Anne Ch'ien is such a legend. Her patience, kindness, and dedication helped our generation to get through this program, a degree process that—even in the best of times—can be pretty challenging.
Round about this time back in 2006, Ali and I first moved to Hyde Park. From the jump when we got here, it was crystal clear that all positive paths through Haskell Hall eventually made their way to Anne’s treasured office. This was back before living stipends were standard, before COVID-19 derailed people’s fieldwork, and right smack dab in the middle of other world-historical and upper-administrative shitshows to follow.
Anne’s frequent “hang in there” encouragement was a godsend as we navigated all of these ongoing hurdles. Her behind-the-scenes magic and limited-resource witchcraft kept Ali, myself, and so many others in the game. Anne was an intermediary-par-excellence. Somehow she knew and cared deeply about everyone, but also never got too up in any of our business. Our futures were serious, but not so much so that she fanned the tendency to take university life way too seriously.
To us, she was one of the pillars that held the whole squirrely building together. I mean it! Spend long enough in Anne’s office, and you’d eventually realize that not only was she engaged in high diplomacy with the top echelons of University power, she was also the conduit for Buildings and Grounds personnel when the basement flooded. Or a literal squirrel was on the loose trying frantically to tone down the gravity of some pitched debate in Systems.
The reproduction of the whole operation relied on people like Anne to keep the lights on long after most of us needed at least a nap. When I was still Preceptor, I spent years learning from Anne how to better realize events for our young undergraduate colleagues. When Ali was still a Research Assistant, Anne had a knack for suggestions as to who would be perfect to talk to. At party after party like this one, her quiet effort made sure we all got fed and could cool our nerves with a beverage. In job application after job application, she helped distressed seekers land positions worldwide that they’d always dreamed of. No concern was too practical, material, emotional, or politically tricky to escape her attention.
So what happens after tonight? Should we build a statue? Should we write a song? We defer to Anne and the Department’s current leadership at all levels. To us, nothing would be too much. At the very least, let’s make a point when it’s toast time to raise our glass to Anne and her fellow Haskell legends. Her unparalleled patience, kindness, and dedication should be an inspiration for countless office hours and parties to come.
Constantine V. Nakassis
As she has with so many of us, Anne has always been there to help me, even before I came to Chicago. In Spring 2010, late in a very bad job season I got an e-mail saying that I was invited to interview for a post-doc in the department. I had no experience in this kind of thing: what would happen in an interview? I had no idea, wet behind the ears as I was. Luckily, I had been in contact with Andy Graan, then a PhD student in the department (and now an alumnus), and I had asked him what he thought my interview would be like; who I might meet, and so on. Well, helpful, wonderful, and smart as Andy is, he went to Anne and got my schedule and then sent it to me before I received it from the department officially! I immediately read as much as I could from the list of illustrious and intimidating star-scholars I was to meet. I don’t know how much it helped to know about radioactive plants in Los Alamos or Bafokeng mining projects, but I certainly felt more confident. And I don’t think I made a fool of myself, which luckily I had plenty of time to do after I got the job. The point of the story: I got that job because of Anne! That is, I have her to thank for all the opportunities in which I have made a fool of myself since. And since then Anne has helped me, and everyone else in the department, to do our jobs, and to do them well—sometimes, as I found out, because Anne herself was doing our jobs!
Anne and I worked closely together on admissions, among other things; and I saw how tirelessly she devoted herself to students—again, students she never even met! She pored over their applications, sorted them, circulated them to the right readers, and looked after them with so much care. And for the ones who came, she continued to do so through every stage of their careers. Working with Anne, I saw how irreplaceable she really is, because she took on so much and executed it so well; it really isn’t an exaggeration to say that she helped make this place what it is today. Part of it is because the relations that Anne forged with so many of us were not simply professional; they were personal. It was Anne, indeed, who sat with Nancy in her last days and kept us all in the loop; and from whom I got updates about Marshall; and it’s from Anne that we hear about new births in the department, most recently, Ella Butler and Adam Sargeant’s daughter, Lena Rose.
I really can’t imagine what it will be like to come into Haskell and not have Anne there; even my kids are heartbroken, because who is going to give them chocolates when they come in but Tita Anne? It’s really unthinkable that she’s retiring, to them and to me.
It’s for that reason that I would propose that she be bestowed the title of Administrator of Student Affairs, Emerita, a status reserved for someone who, while having retired, is still allowed to retain her title as an honor, though of course the honor would be all ours! All of which is to say that I hope that Anne will stay part of our Anthropology community in the many years to come, a community which she has been at the center of, a community which she’s done so much to grow, maintain, and help flourish. So, cheers to Anne, not on her retirement, but on her new emerita status!
In academic disciplines, generations are short. Given that in our department they tend to be between 8 and 10 years, I have taught about two generations of students since I came here in the winter of 2002-2003. Some of us have taught a good deal more. But what helped those students survive our ministrations was the patron saint of anthropology Ph.D. students (and other lost causes), Anne Ch’ien.
Naturally, I couldn’t resist poking around in a few online Catholic Encyclopedias to get a sense of the domain of St. Anne’s intercessions. Among other things we find that she protects lace makers, miners, old-clothes dealers, seamstresses and stablemen. But she also looks out for children and teachers, and here we get closer to the matter that concerns us today. She helps in moving house – which I experienced firsthand when I moved from DC to Chicago – and in finding lost articles. Did I just say articles? That, too, of course. The ones you left in the Xerox machine. But also think of forgetting your keys in Haskell 315. Again: who of us hasn’t made that experience? Saint Anne gets courses lined up, letters of recommendation sent, exams scheduled, keeps tabs on the academic and personal lives of countless students, and has pampered the faculty to a degree where I often have answered students’ queries by saying “I could tell you something now, but we better go down to Anne’s office to ask her, before I tell you anything wrong”. No wonder that Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a Prelude and Fugue in E-Flat Major, BWV 552 (1739) in her honor!
Aquinas once wrote a prayer for students. It goes like this:
Pour forth your brilliance upon my dense intellect, dissipate the darkness which covers me, that of sin and of ignorance. Grant me a penetrating mind to understand, a retentive memory, method and ease in learning, the lucidity to comprehend, and abundant grace in expressing myself. Guide the beginning of my work, direct its progress, and bring it to successful completion.
He might have added: and protect me from getting contradictory advice from my Ph.D. committee. Keep that in mind for the faculty.
But here’s a novena for the time when we cannot count on Anne’s personal intercession anymore:
Oh glorious St. Anne, filled with compassion for those who invoke thee, and with love for those who suffer. Heavily laden with the weight of my troubles, I cast myself at thy feet and humbly beg of thee to take the present affair which I recommend to you under your special protection.
Think finding readers for your MA, a date for your proposal hearing, or a quorum member for your defense.
Saint Anne, by the way, is the apocryphal grandma of rabbi Joshua of Nazareth. But she also appears in the Qu’ran. I leave finding prayers to her to those of us better versed in Islam, but I am pretty sure that there’s an oricha who has her as its Catholic counterpart. Some say it’s the powerful and mysterious Oduduwa, a wise old deity who has had more than a hand in the creation of the world.
Here, at any rate is my advice for the future: get yourself one of these candles for Santa Ana at your friendly neighborhood botánica! Now that we won’t be able to pester Anne all day and each and every seven days of the week, it might come in handy.
A few months ago, I happened upon a video my husband Craig recorded in front of Haskell Hall. I’m wearing a wax jacket and the Doc Martin’s mary janes I bought when we lived in London – it can’t have been that long after I arrived. The video shows me trotting up the stairs, pulling in vain on the heavy wooden door, then climbing gingerly out onto the ledge to the right of it to peer through a window. I think we were on our way to Wisconsin to visit my parents. I was a newly minted PhD and fledgling assistant professor. I was very eager to succeed. I had probably asked if we could swing by my office to pick up a book just in case there was some down time – Craig used to tease me for this kind of thing. I can’t remember the details. But I know who I was looking for. It was Anne, the source of all aid and abetment. If she was there, I’m sure she let me in.
I don’t think the anthropology faculty at the University of Chicago has any idea how spoiled they are. I certainly didn’t until, for a range of mostly personal reasons, I decamped to UC Santa Cruz. Where’s the slush fund? I asked myself after my first faculty meeting, when someone suggested holding a food drive for our graduate students, whose funding was being cut. Had the Lichtensterns only given money to Chicago? That didn’t seem fair. But most of all, I asked myself, where’s Anne? Where’s the person who anticipates the forty recommendations you’re going to need to produce every November and has them waiting in your mailbox to sign? The person who knew what every student was applying for almost before they did and how to tailor each letter to match the award or job? What do you mean I need to address my own envelops? A login credential? What’s that?
The thing that’s most remarkable about Anne’s achievements is, of course, the scale. I loved showing off at UCSC by telling my colleagues about the mercifully brief period when I found myself on 35 committees. Their eyes would widen, and then I’d shrug. “It really wasn’t that bad.” My talent as an advisor had nothing to do with this. It wasn’t that bad because of Anne. Because of Anne, I knew they would make it through.
Julie, one of my daughter Millie’s current team of caregivers, has 12 kids. Like Anne, she’s preternaturally cheerful, frighteningly efficient, and happy to help with any hairbrained scheme. Julie’s children are between the ages of 4 and 29. They must be raising each other, I tell myself. Kind of like I used to tell myself that my Chicago students were raising themselves. It was only partly true. My students had no trouble with the theory – they could teach each other Badiou. But they needed help with the logistics and so much more: how to register for classes, how to form a committee, how to apply for a grant, how to find the perfect postdoc, how to survive the heartbreak when they didn’t the job. UC Santa Cruz subscribed to the Tiger Mom model of doctoral training – easy to do when each of the graduate students is basically a single child. At Chicago, I never had to teach anyone how to write a cover letter. Anne had rows of filing cabinets full of them, along with proposals to every funding agency known to humanity. Every day, a dozen students appeared on Anne’s doorstep. She was always ready to greet them with a sympathetic chuckle. Like Julie with her dozen children, she somehow remembered all their names. But not just that. She knew their hopes, their anxieties, their hidden strengths, and, of course, their projects, and she showed them the way forward. I’m not sure how this was possible, since the rest of us had to put up with fluorescent lighting. But Anne’s office was always bathed in a warm glow.
These days, I’ve got a job that’s a more like Anne’s than the job I had at Chicago was. I work on behalf of people who either are or are trying to become anthropologists. I think of Anne often. If I’m able to muster a tenth of the cheerfulness and a twentieth of the wisdom, it’s been a good day. Now Anne gets to go and sprinkle her fairy dust elsewhere. Congratulations, Anne -- I’m kind of surprised they’re letting you go.
For reasons too annoying to enumerate I was unable to attend the celebratory event at the Logan Center. I did, however, toast you and your illustrious career in the Department at 6:30 PM.
I know from conversations with friends that I'm among the many who will have grave difficulty imagining a Department from which you have retired. I genuinely can't conceptualize the place without you. In any case, I hope you thoroughly avail yourself of retirement's surpassing opportunities. Notably including visits to Gio's, ovah by dere in Bridgeport.
My very best--and many, many thanks for your many and diverse acts of assistance and aid and genuine kindness over the years. All this combined with felicitous wit and museological brilliance as well.
I will forever be thankful to you for complicating my understanding of what the university is and does, for showing me that from within an increasingly bureaucratized administration (within and without the department!) there is someone who listens, who cares, and who tries. Not only tries, but is extraordinarily effective at supporting student needs, providing practical guidance, and helping students through. Thank you for making me feel welcome in the department as a student, instructor and new mother. To say you will be missed is a severe understatement. I am in fact not sure how life will go on in Haskell without you. Thank you Anne, for everything.
Dear Anne, I was off in Ghana and happily “out of the zone,” and only just today learned of your retirement from the only anthropology department in the world! I always feel close to you, as if time passed doesn’t really matter, and I can’t imagine what my thirteen years in the department would have been like without you. We used to call you the CPU (Central Processing Unit) of the department, and now you are the living archive of its institutional memory! And the letters! You must have processed hundreds per week during the rush seasons, and unlike the faculty, you never complained. The testimonies of former and current grad students speak so eloquently of your commitment to their lives. To say you will be missed does not even come close. Haskell will never feel the same. Congrats, and much love! Andy
Every time I returned to Hyde Park, I came home to you as much as to my apartment, my friends, my advisors, and my books. Thank you for the stability, the advice, and the comfort that helped me get through. I wish you so much health and happiness, and no more students (or faculty) to chase after!
Anne was the soul of department during my time at Chicago and saved my butt often, but here are two particularly memorable moments.
When I arrived at some point in my first week I got hopelessly confused on campus and was running around in circles looking for my classroom (like every bad dream of life as a student) and also, against all advice to the contrary I’d signed up for a couple of courses that weren’t Systems. So I'm standing someplace on some square of grass and Anne comes along, just doing whatever she was doing, and I say “Anne: Where am I supposed to be??” And she knew not only the answer but the room number and building of my Russian Drama class. Off I rushed, and it only occurred to me later how insane that was that she just had that piece of information in her head, we were a big cohort (1998) but regardless she, better than I, knew what I should be up to. From that moment on I trusted her completely with every aspect of my educational life, including how to navigate formal relations in the department going awry (she also, always new this before I did, and would step in to set things right as needed) absolutely miraculous.
Second, once upon a time I thought I had a fellowship at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington DC and actually moved to DC and got an apartment only to arrive the first day and learn that though they wanted to give me the fellowship they couldn’t because NO letters of recommendation had arrived with my application. I called Anne, while hyperventilating on a street corner (the apartment had been expensive, and now I had no income!) and in less than 2 hours they had the letters and I had the fellowship and almost as fast, the money necessary to pay the rent. That fellowship and the time in DC it enabled meant the world to me, and Anne made that possible. I know she did such wonders for many people, but I am still and will always be immensely grateful that she also did them for me.
You truly were the bedrock of my time at Chicago. You managed to keep me on track in my studies, and you humanized the department in a profound way. Your subtle guidance taught me the most indispensable things, all the crucial things that are not formally taught: being a good colleague, caring for others, speaking generously, and lifting people up so they can succeed. Your example influenced so many of us. It reverberates throughout the field of anthropology as a whole. Thank you.
Alex Blanchette (PhD 2013)
While there are so many, many things I am grateful for, there is one memory that keeps coming back. It happened on the morning of my dissertation defense -- a dissertation, you might recall, that was written in great haste and a dissertation that I *knew* could have been better. I wasn't terribly confident about the final product. Indeed, I wasn't terribly confident about much that I had produced, about what I was doing, about what I knew, and, on that particular morning, if anyone would show up to my mid-summer defense. Yes, impostor syndrome is strong in this one. Yet, you, Anne, managed to say the best possible thing. Just the thing I needed to hear at just the right moment. You mentioned, off-handedly, that you wondered whether you should open Haskell 315 for my defense, a rhetorical question that suggested that you, the most important person in the department, actually thought that many people might show up for my defense. They didn't (only a small handful of friends came, which was fine by me), but that's beside the point. Because what was so impactful about your off-handed comment is that you believed in me. You thought I had produced something worthy of listening to and learning from. You, who had such an incredible read on the department, thought there was a possibility that lots of people might show up for me. I, honestly, hadn't even realized that that would be a reasonable thought to harbor in my head. Having your faith and support at all of the right moments was one of the best aspects of grad school! Thank you so much!
Much love and eternal gratitude,
Anne, you were unfailingly kind to me from the time I was figuring out grad school plans to when I joined the faculty as a newly-minted PhD to when I made my way out to UCLA. I remember many conversations, on everything from books to student wellbeing to department policies. Always, you balanced expertise with openness and, unfailingly, kindness. I miss you and wish you wonderful times at the opera, and lots of life’s delights. Please add Los Angeles to your travel itinerary, and know that you have a home here.
Hugs from afar,
I met Anne Ch’ien in September 2005 when I was hired as Associate Director of our Center for East European and Russian/Eurasian Studies (CEERES). I began this position on September 6 and was tasked with working on a proposal to the U.S. Department of Education for Title VI funds which was due on November 15. In that chaotic 8 week time frame Anne Ch’ien had been enlisted to help find any data that I requested as we wrote the grant proposal. The fact that we succeeded in getting the grant funding and resurrecting our National Resource Center status was in no small part because of Anne. She was amazing and I owe her a great deal since I loved that position and would not have been in it for a dozen years without her. The University of Chicago is a place that can be pretty stoic; my experience is that respect for faculty and administrators is not always accompanied by affection. In this case, it is certain that Anne Ch’ien is not only respected and appreciated, but also deeply and unabashedly loved. She is one of the most consistently selfless and conscientious human beings I have ever known and my life has been greatly enriched by knowing her. Anne – I wish you every happiness in your retirement. You will be deeply missed and long remembered.
Faculty Affairs Administrator
UChicago Sociology Department
I wanted to wish you well as you head toward your so well-deserved retirement. It's truly an end of an era and such a wonderful one, at that! Like so many who have passed through the halls of Haskell Hall, I suspect I can't think of Chicago Anthropology without thinking of you Anne. During my years there (1998-2005), you were such a source of help, kindness, and comfort and because of what you have done for so many of us, there are so many days when you pop into my mind or come up in conversations with former Chicago students. Your mark has been lasting and I think you know this but I will write out here: you've helped so many of us get where we are! I am forever grateful. Thank you and best of luck with this new phase of life.
Warm regards, Biella
John and Jean Comaroff
We have known and loved you, Anne – or St. Anne as so many generations of students have known you – since before you became the heart and soul of the Anthropology Department, since you were a beloved Dean of Students in the Division of the Social Sciences. So much can and has been said about you; it is hard to add anything more to the tributes that are flowing in to mark your retirement. Having gone with you through many trials and tribulations, many moments of sheer joy and deep despair, words fail us as we say thank you, thank you, thank you for everything you are and have been in our lives, in the lives of countless colleagues and students, some sadly no longer with us. Your home may longer be in the department, in your famous, wondrously populated office. But it is permanently, with eternal tenure, in our hearts.
John and Jean
October 1, 2021
A is for the song in your voice when you answer the phone, “Anthropology!”
N is for all the Notes you have taken at our defenses, workshops, and seminars, a rich archive of our most Noteworthy moments
N is for kNowledge (yes), a tremendous wealth you hold and share with us so thoughtfully and generously, with good humor and ready sympathy
E is for the answer to what you do make happen (Everything)
For your retirement, I wish you the moon.
Difficult to imagine you retiring! I remember the comfort and support you gave me, as a young graduate student, when I had to turn to you in the office of the Dean of Social Sciences, where you then were working. I no longer remember what the problem was, but I do remember that you were such a caring interlocutor, and that you brought a calming perspective that helped me get through it. I remember being jealous of the following cohorts of students in anthropology, when I heard that you had later moved to the department.
I wish you all the very best in this new stage of your life, and hope it brings you satisfaction. Do let me know if you travel to California, I'd love to have you over for drinks or a meal at my Berkeley home!
James W. Fernandez
In the midst of its many tedious and self important administrative rigidities the University can always be Home to Great Adventures. For the Humanist there is the adventure of finding new knowledge in the archives. For the Scientist there is the adventure of finding new realities in the laboratory. For the anthropologist, so often humanist and scientist at once, in his or her complex calling, there is the adventurous expectation of finding new configurations of fact and fiction in the cultures of the field. Who can deny that fieldwork is so often, insofar as ordinary academic life is concerned, an otherwise incomparable adventure.
But no such adventure is possible without facilitation. Anne Chien has been over the many years, as all we students and professors know, a great facilitator, a great solver of problems. Many of us, perhaps all of us in the field , reflecting on our transit there, recognize how much we owe to Anne. So we have sent to her or brought back to her many artifacts of appreciation, enabling her also to participate in the adventure she has facilitated Our continuous so-acting in gratitude and appreciation, our enduring indebtedness, has been the source of the amazing Office Museum that Anne has long curated.
Wouldn’t it be nice to turn Marshalls Old Office into the Anne Chien/Marshall Sahlins Museum of Departmental Adventures, dedicated to, in testimony of, two great contributors to, facilitators’ of, anthropology. Thank you so much, Anne, for all you have done to make our adventures possible!
James W. Fernandez
Thank you so much for all your years at Chicago and for being such friend to all of us — during coursework, while in the field (Cuba for me), and also afterwards while we were writing, defending, and trying to find a job. You were the one to bring the champagne and paper cups to celebrate after my PhD defense, a simple and beautiful ritual that I always remembered and continued with my own grad students at UMD. Enjoy your retirement! All my best wishes to you! Felicidades!
Laurie Frederik, 2007 grad
I remember Anne Ch'ien as a kind and wonderful person going back many, many years -- from before my return to Chicago in 1993. It was in the summer of 2004, when I began my efforts to get back the Title VI funding for UChicago's Center for East European and Russian Eurasian Studies (CEERES) that Anne played a fundamental role that summer helping me get started until I was able to hire Meredith Clason as Associate Director for CEERES. And after Meredith was hired, Anne played an important role in helping her make the connections she needed to make at UChicago, so that our application for the 2005-2010 cycle was successful as have been all subsequent applications in subsequent grant cycles. And as an associate member of Anthropology at UChicago, I remember Anne especially for enhancing the celebration of each dissertation defense with which I was involved. Here is wishing Anne many, many happy and healthy years in retirement.
May it be more nourishing than milk and sweeter than honey!
(Victor A. Friedman, Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities, UChicago, Honorary Associate, La Trobe U.)
It is difficult to articulate how grateful I am to know you. Without you, your confidence and reliability, your smile and warmth, your creativity and expertise, (your chocolate!), I would not be where I am, nor who I am, today. Few people have been as impactful in my life and the lives of so many. I remain in awe of you. In this next stage of your life, I wish you infinite opportunities to let loose your wonderful laugh.
With love and gratitude,
No Anne, no doctorate -- no doubt about that. Thank you, Anne, for all things small and huge, especially the really huge! My sympathies to anyone who tries to fill your shoes.
Words cannot fully capture how much your support, kindness, availability, and incredible institutional, professional, and academic knowledge helped me and so many others in the department. I always appreciated being able to pop in for help with a technical problem, support with a class or workshop, or just a quick chat and a Starburst. I hope you have a wonderful – well earned! – retirement, Anne. Thank you for making Chicago anthropology what it is and for sustaining all of us with such elan and grace.
Many thanks for your boundless commitment and kindness to the students of Chicago's Anthropology Department -- generation upon generation!
With deep gratitude,
Anne is the lifeblood of the anthropology department. Period. With her retirement, I am not convinced that Haskell will not crumble into the ground, first slowly and then picking up speed. Anne was there for everyone. In a place that could be inaccessible, Anne was always accessible, her door open for anyone who needed her. Despite being busy with really important work all day, she was always willing to answer a question, send yet another reminder email, or solve a basically insolvable problem. Dealing with faculty and grad students is basically like herding cats, and Anne was the best cat herder in the world. Thank you Anne for everything you have done, I am not sure that we can fully express our gratitude to you in words.
Thank you for your dedication to students and for all your advice over the years! I don’t think my “creative” approach to the timeline could have worked without your help. Many congratulations on your retirement!
– Marc Kelley
Dear Anne - my goodness! It is now a decade since I was in Haskell's hallowed halls, and I am both amazed to think how long you served all of us as well as unable to imagine the department without you. Those years were some of the best and some of the hardest, and for grad students like me, you were our guide ... actually, a lot of metaphors come to mind: our midwife, our tugboat through the straits, our wayfinder star, often our oracle. I remember calling you first when trying to track down my advisors, figure out some aspect of the university or departmental process, hear a kind encouraging voice during the write-up slog. I feel you already know that your career has truly shaped late 20th and early 21st century Anthropology. You are dearly regarded by a few decades of us, and I regret that I am not around to join in your deserved celebration ... but thank you and may you have some good travel and culture-crossing scheduled into that retirement future!
Hugs and my warmest wishes,
Anne, I always so admired and appreciated your energy and enthusiasm in supporting me and my fellow PhD students at University of Chicago Anthropology. You were always someone we could turn to to answer questions, bring us all together, and offer support. You would likely not recall, but I remember well one act of support you accomplished for me when I was a PhD student. Accidentally my medical insurance had lapsed over the summer, and you convinced the university to reinstall it! I also appreciate how you assiduously kept track of all our email addresses and identities, to foster a sense of community years after we had physically departed U of Chicago. We are grateful for your support and vision, and I wish you all the best in the years ahead!
Yours, Sarah Lamb ('93 PhD)
When I was finishing my undergraduate degree at UIC, I knew several people who'd begun their degrees in Anthropology at the University of Chicago and distinctly remember there was a public Facebook group called, ‘Canonize Anne Ch’ien.’ At the time, I thought this was a wonderful joke, but there's definitely truth in this statement. While I'm sure Anne wouldn’t want to be a saint - hagiography tells us of the trials and tribulations saints must undergo to be deserving of their indoctrination into a religious system - I want to use this anecdote and example to emphasize how essential Anne is to the story and cosmology of Chicago Anthropology. I couldn't imagine, and can't imagine, the department without her. The extent to which she has given of herself, quite selflessly, over the years is incomparable. Alongside her always being present, even in times when faculty couldn’t be, Anne has endless patience, determination, wit, and empathy. There were several times when I thought I’d leave the program. Each time I remember coming to Anne’s office and her taking the time out of her busy schedule to close off her office and listen, while giving sincere advice and even a hug. This was honestly one of the reasons I survived my first year and will soon be an alum of the department, which was one of my dreams since I was a child growing up in Chicago’s suburbs. I never felt judged by Anne, and I think she’s been a wonderful cheerleader to have. And not just for myself, but for everyone here. There is a way in which Anne made Chicago feel like a large, extended family with the ways she cherished seeing everyone come together for various events - ‘rituals’ or ‘ceremonies’, if you’d like. Anne’s retirement is another ritual, another rite du passage, but this is one that we all wish didn’t have to happen, but obviously, as anthropologists, understand in the end. We will miss you Anne, but we know that you'll have an amazing retirement!
– Hilary Leathem
Thank you so much for your help, Anne. No matter what problem I come to you with, you always have a solution at the ready--even including a can of WD-40! More importantly, though, thank you for your friendship and advice over the years. The privilege of knowing you is truly one of the things I am most grateful for from my time at UChicago.
Wishing you all the best,
I’m struggling to find words worthy of Anne. So, I will simply say, “Thank you.” Thank you for your warm greeting on the mezzanine when I was the first to show up for the prospective student breakfast. Thank you for keeping my wallet safe in your office every time I lost it in Haskell. Thank you for the countless letters of recommendation you arranged for me while I was a student (and well after). Thank you for attending my dissertation defense and convocation. Thank you for being a quiet, steady support during all the highs and lows of academic life.
Deepest thanks for your long service to our department, Anne, and warm wishes for a joyous retirement!
Here's to the wonderful, ever-ebullient Anne, who really walks the walk for the students and proved it by being one of those great administrators who always scaled down what (back in the day) often seemed like a cold, monolithic institution to human dimensions. May the next chapter be as illustrious as this one's been! If only the Baltic Bakery were still in operation, I'd say yet another weekly selection of fine Lithuanian-Polish pastries is in order, or at least a fine champagne.
I am attaching my contribution to Anne’s celebration---not a memory, certainly, because I’ve never seen Anne simply kick back. It is my hope though, that she will take time in the future to relax, knowing we are not her problem anymore.
Kathlen Lowrey and Jessica Jerome
At nearly 20 years' hazy remove, what we can agree on is that no one but Anne Chi’en better exemplifies Maya Angelou's dictum "people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel." Anne was the person in the department whom you could rely upon to be delighted for you when something good happened and sympathetic when something bad occurred. It goes without saying that she was the smartest of insiders on every variety of institutional labyrinth, able to tell you where the secret levers were located to open hidden bureaucratic doors, and unflappable about a staggering array of academic minutiae. But it's not, honestly, those details that stand out most clearly years and years later. It's that when you turned up in her office, she was always on your side.
With love and warmest congratulations on your retirement,
Kathleen Lowrey (PhD 2003) and Jessica Jerome (PhD 2003)
I actually, like many others I imagine, have been really struggling to articulate or depict the truly immense impact that Anne’s presence, support, and tireless commitment had on my life in the department and beyond. I keep coming back to one of my most vivid and cherished memories of my time at Chicago, which was the moment I finished my dissertation defense, and emerged from the room to see Anne smiling and holding a bottle of champagne. She had been an enduring presence at every step of my journey, and so it was perfect and fitting and reassuring to see her there at the culmination, to shepherd me, as she had done so many times, onto the next chapter. She has done so much for so many—the discipline owes her a great and unpayable debt. All my warmest wishes for a beautiful, irresistible, joyous, and richly, richly deserved retirement.
Dear Anne, many thanks for all the wonderful support over the years. You are a star. Best wishes for post-uChicago life and I hope our paths cross again at some point. Francis
I've had the great pleasure and honor of knowing Anne Ch'ien since long before she came to Anthropology-- in 1981, in fact. I was a student in the first or second year of the MAPSS program, and she was working in the Dean of Students office. She treated me with great respect and warmth and was always encouraging, and I will always remember her for that--not least because I eventually made a 30-year career as an anthropologist, from which I, too, am nearing retirement.
Cheers, Anne! Congratulations, and much love,
Anthro Ph.D. 1992
I want to express my gratitude to Anne for her dedication to the Anthropology department, its faculty, and students. My peers and I joked that she is “the institution” of Chicago anthropology. It is difficult to imagine the program without Anne and impossible not to be in awe of her hard work, energy, and enthusiasm for anthropology.
Sean T. Mitchell
Thank you, Anne, for your extraordinary generosity and wisdom. You made an often-brutal and competitive PhD program so much more humane. And thank you, Anne, for modeling a care and competence that I can only attempt to emulate with my students.
With all my best wishes for your retirement,
Sean T. Mitchell
Pretty much the first thing I heard in Chicago was that Anne Chi’en would save my life.
Optimistic prospies said they loved her. Grizzled dissertators could speak well only of her. When I asked a faculty member about the program’s formal requirements and process, he said that this probably wasn’t really written down anywhere, because Anne had it all in her head.
One older student told me that there was no point in sucking up to Anne. She would be good to you no matter what you did. You should show warmth to Anne, he concluded, not because you needed something, but because she showed warmth to everyone.
And, of course, Anne does exude the sunny warmth that draws the many planets into their proper orbits, anxious first-years and lost scholars, one-time visitors and campus veterans. In a system that often runs cold, Anne matters so much. Many days Anne was the only person I knew would actually listen to me. What is hard to fathom is that, on any one of those days, probably dozens of others felt the same way about Anne.
Like the sun, Anne has both warmth and brilliance to offer. Anne’s insights always amaze me. She knows which new idea to explore, who is thinking about what, and how a whole academic world maintains its structure. Her casual observations about one or another person can shed a totally new light. This light has shaped my life over and over again. For example – this is only one example – she cannily suggested that, as a student interested in Marx, I should take an undergraduate economics class with Robert Lucas. Lucas is (I would discover) an arch-neoliberal. Here comes Anne’s genius: he is also an extremely sweet person. So he tolerated my anger in his lectures and engaged with me in a genuine way. Anne had set me up with the nice neoliberal, a move that challenged and deepened my worldview.
Like every student, probably, I have uncountable memories with Anne. Her news about the opera and her tales about studying Chinese. The time my computer broke and she gave me a fob to get into Haskell so I could type a paper after hours. The morning when I nearly slept through my qualifying oral exams and she kept the faculty members in the room while I ran to campus. The many moments when she poured champagne to mark a change in someone’s world.
This past May, I drove a thousand miles to Chicago and felt so eager to share a new change with Anne: the arrival of Isaiah Christopher, my only child. Campus looked grim and COVID-struck. Anne had to unlock Haskell Hall, because, in the middle of the day, we were the only people inside the building. But there, in a vacated office, Anne made the world shine again. She radiated new ideas and happy gossip while Isaiah Christopher traipsed around the back of a chair, and I remembered how Anne had always taught me that relationships are what set the planets into rotation.
We talked and talked, and I stayed well past my time to go, thinking I had only been there for a few minutes. Then I glanced at the clock and gasped, running out with Isaiah Christopher under the arm, feeling like we still hadn’t chatted for long enough.
That evening, in a rainstorm, Isaiah Christopher’s coat was nowhere to be found. Neither custodians nor friends nor a careful search of the Airbnb could help. Finally, I emailed Anne. She left her house, hiked to Haskell, unlocked the giant door again, and retrieved the tiny coat behind the chairs. When she handed it to me the next day, she looked so generous, and I felt the tying of another link in the chain of obligations and graces. Now to my child, Anne was giving warmth.
Exhibit A of Anne's beautiful smile - Thank you Anne, for your constant support and encouragement throughout the program! Stopping by your office and chatting with you, even briefly, was always a memorable interaction. Wishing you a very happy retirement! (Ayesha Mulla)
I could never adequately convey what your enduring presence, unwavering support, and inexhaustible insight has meant to me over the years. Thank you for all the guidance, the warmth, wisdom, the heartening encouragement, and never-ending starbursts.
I'm in awe of Anne, who has invariably been superbly resourceful and well-informed, positive, supportive, friendly in the best sense of the word, and kind. To maintain that sort of bright spirit, tireless energy, and commitment for a year, let alone decades, is vanishingly rare; it is hard to imagine how much the Anthropology Department has relied on her activity to be able to be what it has been.
I would like to mention that Anne always went above and beyond to assist Professor Paul Friedrich, who, were he still with us, would possibly be asking for her help in submitting his own tribute to her (and she would be good-naturedly typing it into an email for him).
So very, very many things would not have gotten done, or would have been done worse, if not for her skill and willingness to help. Thank you, Anne, for everything!
Dale Pesmen (PhD, 1998)
Justine Buck Quijada
People in anthropology joke about the “Chicago mafia,” that Chicago grads are everywhere, and this is entirely due to Anne. Anne, you are the reason that I, and I think most of us, have the grants and post-docs and jobs that we have. She made sure that we got notices of everything we could apply for, she made sure my letters of recommendation got written and sent, she knew exactly who we all were and what opportunities we needed to know about and I wish I could say that this was some special thing she did just for me but she did it FOR ALL OF US for decades. Getting all those letters from all those faculty every year was like herding cats. And Anne made it seem so natural that I, at least, didn’t realize how special it really was until I worked elsewhere. We took you so for granted, and you are so amazing. I wish I could be there to hug and say thank you in person because I don’t think I’d be a professor now if it hadn’t been for your care and help. Haskell Hall could be daunting, and the professors could be intimidating, but when I went in the office I always felt like there was at least one person who knew me, and cared about me and supported me. Thank you Anne, for the kindness and care you showed all of us, for the work you did on our behalf, for the legacy you leave in the discipline of anthropology. Thank you.
Justine Buck Quijada
BA Chicago Anthropology ’94, PhD Chicago Anthropology ’09 (as Ray Fogelson, may he rest in peace put it, I was a recidivist, and Anne remembered me!)
Even before I began my PhD studies in anthropology, you helped me gain early access to my stipend to facilitate my move to Chicago. As a first generation student, when so many aspects of graduate school were profoundly alienating and disempowering, you provided affirmation and access to resources at every stage of the program. In moments when even entering Haskell Hall was anxiety producing, your presence was always welcoming and reassuring. I am one among countless former students who benefitted immeasurably not only from your administrative prowess, but also your intellectual brilliance and interpersonal generosity. I am forever grateful, Anne, and I hope that as you enter this next stage you derive profound contentment and encouragement from all the lives you have touched and transformed.
I first came to the department of anthropology for a campus visit in spring of 1991. I remember Anne Ch’ien as Dean Ch’ien. I was so grateful for the advice she gave me. I remember I was trying to decide between attending U of C and Yale, and I now understand that my sense that the U of C department was just better organized and more friendly and more on top of things was in large part due to Anne. She has been an angel to so many of us over so many years. I am guessing that she is one of the most mentioned names in dissertation acknowledgements. Whenever I receive an email from Anne, I am reminded of a really magical time in a stimulating and exciting environment. Anne’s intelligence, warmth, and generosity benefitted me and so many other anthropology graduate students. Anne, I am so grateful to you and I wish you the very best in your well deserved retirement.
Kathy Rupp PhD 1999
Anne - congratulations on your retirement! Thank you so, so, so much for all that you made possible through your tireless attention and care: dozens of courses taken, many research trips, meaningful relationships built, articles written, stipends and degrees and jobs received... and that's just for one person! You truly made the department a welcoming and human place to be for so so many. Wishing you all the rest and relaxation you deserve in your retirement!
When I came into the department it was run under the steady hand of Marshall Sahlins, but the truth is that no one, including Marshall, knew what was going on administratively. This meant that the professor could just wander about in fuzzy-headed anthro abstraction or nasty political knife fights--and Anne actually ran the Department.
Anne was also the only person who took care of us students, guiding us through the always in flux maze of requirements, deadlines, scholarships, defenses, etc that seemed to change every year, as it amused some committee.
So some things never changed, I suspect.
But to give some historical perspective, when I entered, before each semester, professors would come down to Anne's office with their hand-scrawled notes and give them to Anne who would type them up into a syllabus, mimeograph them for the professor to hand out in class. I guess this was part of her job? What a bunch of babies professors were/are.
As someone who now has taught for 25 years in different university settings, I can say I have never had the luxury of an Anne Ch’ien in any office I've worked at.
Thank you Anne, for producing generations of Chicago Anthropologists.
Your patience, generosity and guidance have held together my years in this program, and shone the way through a few moments of personal and administrative impasse. I am so grateful to have been here during your time with the department and will miss you a great deal—even as I am thrilled for you, for taking that time back from us! Wishing you the best in all that comes next. And thank you, so much.
- Lauren Sutherland
I remember the very first of the 1522 emails I got from firstname.lastname@example.org when I sent an updated CV as part of my application package. You wrote thanks, you would add this to my file, "which we have much enjoyed." Needless to say, I was elated about this promising hint, and appreciative of your human/e touch. Every aspect of my graduate experience at Haskell that followed -- from learning a new institution, to funding applications and teaching opportunities, to rituals and parties -- was fueled by your kindness and effectiveness. Friends in other departments enviously spoke about how lucky we were to have a departmental administrator like you who ran a well-oiled machine. And my time at other institutions after U of C showed that ship captains like you are rare, and invaluable.
I will miss your emails. I will miss your replies in the subject line.
All the best for your retirement!
Dear Anne, On returning to Chicago from fieldwork in Israel/Palestine, I brought you a charm against the evil eye as a gift. As I started to explain the symbolism, you waved me off and opened your drawer to show me half a dozen near identical charms. I should have known I wasn’t the only grad student wanting to express gratitude for your help throughout fieldwork and studies. Thank you again, and still: you’re the best.
Whenever I have a crisis in my life, I think about being a grad student and calling Anne. No matter what it was - funding problems, registration issues, research crises, teaching angst, anything that was going on, I could call Anne and hear "Anthropology!" And then, somehow, I felt like it was going to be ok. Anne was always patient, she knew everything there was to know about... well, everything, and in 15 minutes she could talk you through whatever it was that was going on. You'd hang up the phone and then breathe again. I don't think I understood how special that was - Anne's patience, grace, intelligence, wit, and compassion. But I've never encountered anyone quite like her anywhere, and I'm just immensely grateful to her. Even now, the memory of her phone greeting - Anthropology! - gives me a sense of peace.
- Joey Weiss
While I’m no longer at Chicago, I’m almost daily reminded of just how central Anne is and has been to the Anthropology department when I see her name pop up in the first paragraphs of anthropological monographs. Has anyone kept track of how often she has been (sincerely and deservingly and effusively) acknowledged in the books of our discipline? “Thank you, Anne, for holding it all together” is the general sentiment that makes its way into these published mentions, and that sentiment is echoed in so many different forms, across many generations of anthropologists. It's the only thing we alums of Haskel can all seem to agree on. I think about all the ways Anne held me together (whether she knew it or not) during my graduate school career. To know that someone was organizing the infrastructure of our studies in such a way that could contain its chaos and crises; to reckon that she was in the office on weekends, blaring classical music; to know her hands were often behind the letters of rec that shot out to every postdoc and job portal, among a thousand other things she did -- it all aggregated in a sense of confidence and care. Even if everything fell apart, Anne’s office would not. Anne’s work makes me want to honor the kind of labors, seen and unseen, that not only make scholarly institutions function but keep them, despite themselves, human. I'll always remember Anne taking extensive notes at every talk, every proposal hearing, every defense. Her presence, her listening, her expertise, her knowledge, and her care are irreplaceable. That said, I wish her a happy, healthy, restful, and fulfilling retirement! And hopefully way fewer emails.
By Hanna Pickwell
It has become something of a ritual for anthropology students returning from their field trips to bring a small offering to our beloved department administrator, Anne. Over the past twenty five or so years, the accretion of gifts has yielded a collection of several hundred objects of varying size, function and origin, and which have claimed the majority of surface area in Anne’s office.
I decided to visit her office this summer to take a few photos of the space, the collection, and of course, Anne herself.
Facing down innumerable tchotchkes and unsure where to point my camera, I wondered aloud if Anne had any favorites. She assured me she did not, but as our conversation went on, she was especially eager to show me her fifty trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe. I also learned she has a soft spot for armadillos, and counted at least 3 nestled among her collection.
People bring back what they find interesting, Anne told me that afternoon, and we have had a lot of very interesting people in this department. As usual, she was right.
While doing preliminary fieldwork in Oaxaca in the summer of 2016, we visited a handicraft market to buy gifts. There were several alebrijes (brightly colored sculptures of fantastical creatures) on display in the stalls, which we immediately thought would be a perfect, one-of-a-kind present for Anne. We chose a red cat-looking beast that she would certainly find so strange and unique, we thought. When we came back to Chicago in the fall and excitedly showed her what we had brought her, she smiled, complimented it, thanked us. To our surprise, she proceeded to put it alongside the handful of other alebrijes that already populated her office. - Agnes Mondragon & Steven Schwartz
I got Anne a troll in Oslo. Trolls are definitely the height of Norwegian tourist kitsch, and I've always been curious why they look so happy, because when you read Norwegian folktales all the trolls are angry, 3-headed things. I thought a smiling troll would get along well with all of the similarly happy little animal figurines in Anne's office. Alice Yeh helped pick out this particular one when she came to visit. - Janet Connor
I wanted to mention a small woodsplint basket with a handle that I gave Anne in 2009. I believe Anne has used it as a decoration for the Christmas tree on the mezzanine in Haskell Hall. This basket was made by Mi’kmaw Elder Josephine Gould from the We’koqma’q First Nation on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, Canada. - Michelle A. Lelièvre
Such a large collection poses a logistical challenge as Anne packs up her office. We hope that the parts of the collection that Anne can’t accommodate might find a long-term home elsewhere in Haskell.
Toward the end of our visit, Anne mentioned that several folks in the department had taken a special interest in the future of her field tchotchkes lately. I wondered aloud if maybe we were displacing our concern about her departure onto her collection. After all, these little things from all over the world came to be gathered here in the first place because of so many department members’ gratitude and care for Anne.
Have a wonderful time in celebration of a remarkable and undaunted women. Anne, you are amazing and inspiring and I wish you so much joy in your retirement. You are irreplaceable and will carry with you the soul of the department wherever you go.
Where would any of us be without Anne! Calm in the storm; can-do in the impass; support in the achievement of students and faculty alike. Thank you, Anne for all that you have been and done for all of us.
Wishing you all the best, Anne. We will all miss hearing from you. Thank you for making sure that alumni, like me, who received our doctorates decades ago -- in my case nearly 50 years ago! -- stayed connected. Best, Judith Friedlander
I am so happy to see Anne celebrated. She was such a great presence in the department when I was a graduate student, a combination of trouble-shooter, pastoral care-giver, and lifesaver for the lost and confused. The heart of the department, always there to steady nerves and solve problems. I have nothing but respect and love for her, and I agree -- it's hard to imagine the department without her! I cannot join you from Australia, but Anne, thank you!!!
Dear Anne, I will definitely be there! You were such a great, sustaining presence during all my years as a graduate student at Chicago. It is only fitting that you are now being celebrated., Rafael and Pats
Dear Anne, A well-deserved celebration of your inestimable contributions to the Department and the University at large throughout so many years. I'm sorry I cannot be there in person, but I will be there in spirit! Warmly, Anne Beal
Dear Anne, Thank you for everything you've done for the department, and for many of us individually, over the years! A celebration is richly deserved, and I'm looking forward to it - although it will have to be the online option in my case. Best, Rob Oppenheim
Echoing others in saying that no one can imagine the department without you, Anne! You are not only the paragon of kindness and patience, but also fortitude. An unimaginable number of balls were always in the air, and you never lost sight of a single one, caring for each of us every step of the way. It's truly remarkable, and testimony to your deep generosity. THANKS for everything. I wish I could make the event in person. All best, Gustav Peebles
Anne- You were the grounded center of the department. Thank you for your kindness, support and attention to all practical matters during my time there as a graduate student. It is hard to imagine the department without you. Wishing you the best, Kate Blue
Dear Anne, Congratulations on your retirement! You were such a presence in the department and have impacted all of our lives so much. I appreciate the support and encouragement over the years, and am very grateful that you were there to guide us. I know Ray also treasured your friendship. You will be missed in the department I'm sure, but I hope you enjoy many many years of happiness in retirement. Best wishes always, Michael A. Di Giovine
Anne, Best wishes in your impending retirement. You'll be greatly missed. I hope to see you before you escape Harper. With love and appreciation, Bill Autry
Dear Anne, It's hard to imagine the Anthro Department without you, you were the backbone of the place for so many years! Thank you so much for all the help you provided me when I was there. I'm really glad I got to see you before the pandemic hit us. If you plan to travel after you retire and want to come to Taiwan, please come visit me. Wishing you all the best for a healthy and happy future, Teri Silvio
I am so sorry I cannot make it. Anne, you are the reason I am where I am today: teaching anthropology. I will celebrate from afar and will be there in spirit. All my best, Clementine Fujimura
Dear Anne - Sadly, I will not be able to join the celebration of your work at the UofC. You have been tireless in your support of students - including myself - in the Dean's office and in the department. I am hugely grateful to you for your thoughtfulness, advice, and advocacy during my years as a doctoral student. Although I haven't seen you in person for a long time, I was delighted to be present with you on zoom late last year (at Marshall's b-day celebration). Seeing you online reminded me again of how your welcoming smile and kindness transformed my experience at the UoC. With heartfelt thanks and all best wishes from London, Michael Scott