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  • In the Americas with Agnese Haury:A Remembrance
  • David A. Yetman (bio)

Agnese Haury, philanthropist, humanitarian, and internationalist, was driven by an abiding commitment to social justice and a love of anthropology and archaeology. From the 1950s until her death in 2014 at age ninety, Agnese used her wealth to promote the well-being of the people of the world and support research into the cultures that came before us. Although most of the projects that received her support were U.S.-based, she always kept in mind the broader needs of the planet.

I met Agnese in the mid-1980s through a common friend, the late lawyer Clague Van Slyke II. As an attorney, he represented a variety of clients, including some whose interests were affected by the government of Pima County, in which Tucson is located. I was then a member of the Pima County Board of Supervisors. From time to time, Clague would suggest that we have lunch and would invoke pro forma a project of one client or other, mention the client, then move on to more cosmopolitan topics.

Clague phoned me one day at my office and said, in his fatherly voice, "David, there is someone you need to meet." I always interpreted these sorts of Clagueisms as most promising opportunities. I agreed at once. "How about if you join us for our law firm's annual Christmas dinner at Janos's restaurant." That would be difficult to refuse. At the time Janos's was Tucson's finest dining place, located in a wing of an old adobe building now occupied by the Tucson Museum of Art. At the dinner, which was rather formal, Clague introduced me to Agnese Haury and seated us next to each other. For the next two hours we talked nonstop, and I realized I had met an extraordinary individual. [End Page 400]

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Agnese Nelms Haury, with children in Oaxaca. (Courtesy Loren Haury.)

Agnese had become friends with Clague when his law firm had assisted her in establishing a program for providing interpretation services to non-English speakers who faced court proceedings. She had become indignant upon learning of the ongoing miscarriage of justice facing people having to appear in court but lacking English and an understanding of the U.S. legal system. To this day the program she funded is the basis for the National Center for Interpretation at the University of Arizona.

Soon afterward, I learned of her close friendship with Alger Hiss and his family. Hiss had been a high official in the U.S. State Department, accused of espionage and treason by, among others, Richard Nixon. In the Cold War hysteria of the late 1940s, a federal jury convicted Hiss of perjury in proceedings that Agnese considered a kangaroo court, a sentiment she retained until her death. Agnese had worked with Hiss when he was director of the Carnegie Endowment for International [End Page 401] Peace and held him in high esteem. I mentioned to her that my father had followed the Alger Hiss case and was also convinced that Hiss had been railroaded. Agnese revealed that she contributed heavily to Hiss's defense and to the support of his family while he was undergoing the judicial proceedings. Hiss's son Tony has been a long-time recipient of Agnese's generosity and has contributed pioneering work establishing world centers of biodiversity and connections among them.

Following that evening, and it was memorable, I do not recall any additional contact with Agnese until she joined me as a traveler to Alamos, Sonora, through a travel program that was the brainchild of Joe Wilder, director of the University of Arizona's Southwest Center. I had accepted a position there as a research social scientist in 1992. It was probably in 1994 that we made that trip. Dr. Wilder had asked me to undertake a re-publication and expansion of Howard Scott Gentry's 1942 publication called Río Mayo Plants, a seminal study of plants and vegetation with numerous references to the role plants have played in the lives of indigenous peoples of the Río Mayo region of southern Sonora...


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pp. 400-409
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