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GSU anthropology professor honored in memorial service

GSU anthropology professor honored in memorial service

GSU anthropology professor honored in memorial service

Dr. Robert Shanafelt


Georgia Southern University faculty members and students celebrated the life of a longtime anthropology professor who recently died of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
    The memorial service was held Saturday in the Carroll Building on campus, about 2½ weeks after Dr. Robert A. Shanafelt died on March 26.
    Shanafelt was passionate about his profession and was much admired by students, colleagues and others who knew him. Dr. Barbara Hendry, an associate professor of anthropology and longtime friend of Shanafelt’s, said, “He leaves such a void in our department and in our hearts. We will so miss him.”
    Shanafelt researched and studied Africa extensively, most notably the landlocked country in the middle of South Africa, Lesotho. It was here that he met his the woman he married, Mpho (Monica), while serving with the Peace Corps.
    He received a Ph.D. in anthropology in 1989 from the University of Florida and joined the faculty at Georgia Southern in 2002. He taught internationally, including a recent time spent in China, and he studied and spoke several languages. 
    An expert in folklore, Shanafelt brought the ‘Introduction to Folklore’ class to the Georgia Southern. He also taught Introduction to Anthropology, Biological Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Folklife and Religion and Cultures of Africa and a graduate seminar in Social Theory.
    Tim Prizer, a former student of Shanafelt’s, folklorist and current Ph.D. student in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said Shanafelt was “soft-spoken, gentle, warm and a good-natured person, a masterful teacher and brilliant scholar.”
     “His death may have come too early, but he has left us with the indelible impact of the wonderful life he lived,” Prizer said. “I will forever model myself on his memory — on the gentle way he had about him, on his soft voice that comforted, on his smile that reassured. He will be sorely missed, but his influence on my academic pursuits, and on me as a human being, will last as long as I do.”
    Other students spoke at the memorial service and spoke fondly of their professor. Megan Kaise said Shanafelt’s tests were some of the hardest things she had ever experienced, but he challenged and inspired her and his classes were some of the best experiences she had ever had.
    Several students shared that his classes were pivotal in helping them select anthropology as a major, though one student quipped, “Getting an ‘A’ in class felt like getting a Congressional Medal.”
    Saba Jallow, the director of the Center for Africana Studies in the Department of Political Science, said: “Dr. Shanafelt lived his life as a decent human being, the essence of humanity as we know it. He was down-to-earth, humble, fair and cared about the human condition.”
    Bill Shanafelt said his brother was a fighter and wouldn’t give up when it came to his battle with cancer. Bill remembered fondly that his brother showed an early interest in international studies and was practical, straightforward, casual, and intelligent with many wonderful qualities.
    Brother-in-law Cliff Ahola spoke of his enduring friendship with Bob Shanafelt and said he would be greatly missed.
     Robert Shanafelt is survived by his wife, Monica; son, Michael; father, William Stanley Shanafelt; brother and sister-in-law, Bill and Tiff Shanafelt; sister and brother-in-law, Bonnie and Cliff Ahola; nieces, Tori Shanafelt and Morgan Enright; and mother-in-law, Elizabeth Motumi.

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