restricted access 10: Walter Taylor: A Stimulating and Problematic Professor
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169 These recollections about Walter W. Taylor are completely personal. I have no notes or diaries that contain material about life at Southern Illinois University (SIU)—those that I do have contain only ideas and examples of my literary aspirations . However, my memories about various faculty members are fairly clear. It is my purpose here to offer a personal evaluation of Taylor as a professor and individual, viewed through the prism of my experiences and the filter of forty years. At best these memories are mixed. Taylor had a problematic and at times volatile personality, and I could never be completely certain where I stood with him. Nevertheless, I attempt to portray Taylor as a man who held influence over the course of my early career as an archaeologist, and who later tried to become my friend. I address how he influenced my career, and how I responded to him in both formal and informal situations. As a graduate student in the SIU Department of Anthropology during the 1960s, I had enormous luck to work with five first-rate scholars and professors: Pedro (“Pedro”) Armillas, J. Charles (“Kelley”) Kelley, Charles (“Chuck”) Lange, Carroll (“Cal”) Riley, and Walter (“Walt”) Taylor. They formed a remarkable team that during their early years at SIU was characterized by high spirits, collaboration , and shared goals in research and education. I was fortunate to have been Walter Taylor A Stimulating and Problematic Professor Chapter ten Phil C. Weigand Phil C. Weigand 170 there during the last half of their collaborative phase, and unfortunate enough to have witnessed the team’s disintegration into factionalism and personal disputes that were at times quite vindictive. Still, when things went well for us students, they went very well. We had good research opportunities, almost adequate living stipends, easy access to professors for academic questions, and well-prepared seminars that were both stimulating and intellectually demanding. Of those five, the two with whom I had the most contact and field training were Pedro and Kelley, although Walt’s influence was important to me from the outset. I joined the graduate program at SIU in 1962, beginning with an interview with Walt. Coming from an ancient and Classical history background, I then had no idea who he was, nor knew anything about the hard-nosed reputation he sported. I approached the situation as a complete novice in anthropological archaeology, and apparently without the deference that he was used to receiving. Walt was not impressed with my undergraduate training at Indiana University and I learned much later that he had not supported my admittance into the program. When I arrived at SIU, Walt, then chair of the department, assigned me as his research assistant for my first year, perhaps thinking that he could correct my obvious deficiencies. Walt had an enormous personal library, which he housed in his home on the far outskirts of Carbondale. My task was to help catalogue as much of that collection as I could. He kept very strict account of my hours, but other then that I had little contact with him in his home. Research assistants were allowed access to the kitchen water faucet and a bathroom and that was it. During my first quarter at SIU, I attended a seminar on northwest Mexico’s archaeology and ethnography that Walt team-taught with Pedro, Cal, Kelley, and Chuck. It was well taught and informative and I recall it as my first in-depth exposure to an area that today continues to fascinate me. During this first year, of course, I learned of Walt’s reputation as the department’s tough man (an image he thoroughly enjoyed), although his treatment of me then was always, without exception, courteous if distant. My second year at SIU was quite different: I had been assigned as someone else’s assistant and signed up for Walt’s seminar on archaeological theory. The required readings for the seminar were quite varied and ample but featured his classic A Study of Archeology. I had learned from Kelley that he had actually completed that work at Harvard prior to World War II, but that the war, during which he had spent time as a German POW, had prevented its publication. I briefly wondered if my own German background might have influenced his apparent coolness toward me during my first year at SIU. Kelley said that that was impossible and I set aside that thought forever. Walt told the five of us who had signed on...


Subject Headings

  • Taylor, Walter W. (Walter Willard).
  • Archaeology -- United States -- History.
  • Archaeologists -- United States -- Biography.
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