William Shack, prominent African scholar and graduate dean emeritus,
dies at 76
Patricia McBroom, Public Affairs
-- William Alfred Shack, professor emeritus of anthropology
at the University of California, Berkeley, and dean emeritus
of the graduate division, died Friday (March 31) after a courageous
battle with cancer.
prominent scholar of African cultures, Shack was known internationally
for his pioneering fieldwork on the Gurage people of Ethiopia
and for a series of books on African society. But he was best
known on campus for his even-handed, creative stewardship of
several administrative posts, including six years (1979-85)
as dean of UC Berkeley's Graduate Division.
also was one of the first American anthropologists to undertake
ethnographic studies focused on the problems of urban America.
In the last years of his life, he returned to that interest,
completing a manuscript just before his death on the role of
African-American soldiers in the development of the jazz scene
in Paris between 1918 and 1939. That work is now in press.
was a scholar and a gentleman, one of the leading anthropologists
of Africa and a man dedicated to public service," said
Paul Rabinow, chair of UC Berkeley's Department of Anthropology.
public service achievements extended far beyond the campus.
As dean of the Graduate Division, he established a student exchange
program with several French universities that won him a high
honor, the Chevalier L'Ordre National Du Merite, from France
in 1987. Earlier in his career, Shack established a department
of sociology and anthropology at Haile Sellassie 1 University
as chair for 10 years of the International African Institute
based in London, Shack played an important role in promoting
the study of Africa.
1991, UC Berkeley conferred its highest honor, the Berkeley
Citation, on Shack, in recognition of his multiple contributions.
In addition to his top-ranking position as graduate dean, Shack
chaired the anthropology department and was faculty assistant
to the vice chancellor on affirmative action.
retired that year after 21 years on the faculty, and "there
was no one on campus with a greater number of friends among
faculty and administrators," said Elizabeth Colson, professor
emeritus of anthropology and Shack's long-time friend.
was known as fair-minded, imaginative, critical and helpful
- all of this in a typically low-keyed manner that kept him
very much his own person," said Colson.
in Chicago, Shack served in the South Pacific during World War
II and later completed a bachelor's degree at the Art Institute
of Chicago, followed by a master's degree in anthropology at
the University of Chicago.
pre-doctoral work in Ethiopia, where he became interested in
the never-before-studied Gurage culture, Shack entered the London
School of Economics, where he completed a PhD in 1961. He held
academic positions at the University of Chicago and the University
of Illinois before coming to UC Berkeley as professor in 1970.
is survived by his wife, Dorothy Nash Shack of Berkeley; a son,
Hailu Araya Shack of San Francisco; a nephew, Charles Vessels
of Garden Grove, Calif.; and a niece, Frances Mode of Chicago.
services will be held Thursday, April 6, at 5 p.m. in the Great
Hall of the Faculty Club on campus. Contributions can be sent
to the William A. Shack Memorial Fund at the UC Berkeley Foundation,
2440 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, 94720.