Willis E. Sibley
2006 Sol Tax Distinguished Service Award
Willis Sibley is Professor Emeritus in Anthropology of Cleveland State University, Cleveland, Ohio. After earning a B.A. degree in Economics at Reed College in 1951, he received an M.A. degree (1953) and Ph.D degree (1958) in Anthropology at the University of Chicago. His dissertation research took place on Negros Island, Philippines, and his thesis dealt with farming villagers’ relationships within the village and with organizations and institutions at other levels of Philippine national life. A return visit to the Philippines in 1964-65 dealt with comparative social organization in related villages on Negros and nearby Panay islands. In 1968-69, he taught anthropology at the University of the Philippines as an appointee of the Rockefeller Foundation. For work in the Philippines Sibley was awarded Fulbright grants on two occasions, along with a National Science Foundation award.
Teaching appointments spanned 34 years, beginning at Miami University (Ohio) (1956-58), followed with appointments at the University of Utah (1958-60), Washington State University (1960-71) and Cleveland State University (1971-1990). During his teaching career, Sibley also was a faculty activist participating in a wide variety of faculty committees, including occupying the Presidency of the AAUP chapter at Washington State University, and later at Cleveland State University. He was also a member of the organizing committee (under the leadership of Sol Tax) for the 1973 convention of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences held in Chicago. He was honored as Distinguished Lecturer during the Annual Meeting of the Central States Anthropological Society meeting in Ames, Iowa in 1992.
Sibley’s movement toward applied anthropology and a central interest in relationships between technology and modern society gained impetus with fieldwork in Page, Arizona in the late 1950s studying workers building Glen Canyon Dam. Another part of the transition in interests took place with grant-funded research on University organizational history as related to possibilities of future organizational change. Other experiences in relating anthropological approaches to modern organization occurred during an appointment to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the late 1970s (during which Sibley became a “sewer anthropologist) and early in the 1980s with a sabbatical experience at Carnegie Mellon University studying Engineering and Public Policy. During this sabbatical, several courses entailed examination of the social and organizational consequences of adopting new technologies, especially as related to urban development in the U.S. Other involvements included appointment as a Cleveland Faculty Fellow of the City of Cleveland, to study public policy responses to changing levels of the Great Lakes and particularly Lake Erie, along with appointment in the 1980s as Alternate Delegate from the American Anthropological Association to the Renewable Natural Resources Foundation based in Bethesda, MD --- a relationship which continues as a volunteer member of the condominium board on the RNRF campus. In the late 1980s, and lasting until Sibley retired from teaching and moved to Maryland in 1992, he was involved as chair of the Coastal Resources Advisory Council of Ohio --- an organization of stakeholders in coastal resources mandated by the Ohio Legislature in legislation enabling creation of a Federally accredited Coastal Zone Management program for Lake Erie (a program finally completed and certified in the 1990s).
Involvement with affairs of the Society for Applied Anthropology followed membership in the Society beginning in the late 1950s or early 1960s, when William Foote Whyte published an early paper on Philippine local organization in Human Organization. More formal involvement began with membership in the Nominating Committee beginning in 1975, followed with a term as Secretary, then President in 1982. Following his term as President, Sibley has held named roles in the Society continuously to the present including numerous committees, and appointment as SfAA representative to AAAS twice --- first in the 1980s and currently. During the earlier appointment he organized an all-day session during the AAAS Annual Meeting which resulted ultimately in a book, Anthropological Perspectives on Organizational Culture, co-edited with Tomoko Hamada. After acting as producer of the the mounted bronze plaque awarded to recipients of the Margaret Mead Award, he has produced the mounted award whenever it has been awarded since 1983. Beginning with the Presidency of Jean Schensul in 1996, Sibley has acted as Coordinator of Awards for the Society, a role which continues today.
In his non-academic life, Sibley has had a long involvement with sailing and sailing organizations --- including terms as Trustee, flag officer and later as Commodore and Life Member of the Edgewater Yacht Club in Cleveland, and as Governor in the Chesapeake Yacht Club in Shady Side, MD.
In retirement, along with his involvement with SfAA, Sibley has maintained other ties with the anthropological community, including an elected term on the Committee on Public Policy of the American Anthropological Association in addition to newsletter editorship and later Presidency of the Washington Association of Professional Anthropologists (WAPA). He is currently chair of the WAPA Praxis Committee, which makes a biennial award for an outstanding applied anthropology project.
Continuing his interest in water --- a repetitive theme in his professional life --- Sibley operates Sibley Marine Services, LLC, a solo undertaking repairing sailboats on Chesapeake Bay. With his wife Marjorie Hegge, he also sings in the 180-member Annapolis Chorale and in the choir at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, MD.