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Binghamton professors share spotlight Garruto, Little receive 2005 Franz Boas Award

Two Binghamton anthropology professors shared the spotlight in April, receiving the Franz Boas Distinguished Achievement Award from the Human Biology Association, after playing instrumental roles in establishing the award in 1994.

“It was quite a shock to have both of these awarded,” said Michael Little, distinguished professor of anthropology. “Usually, it’s just one a year.” Little and Ralph Garruto, research professor of anthropology and neurosciences, were presented with the Boas award for their achievements in the field of human biology during the Human Biology Association’s 30th annual meeting on April 7.

“It’s the greatest honor that our association can present to a scientist in the field of human biology and that’s a wonderful distinction,” Garruto said. “It also has a deeper meaning to me in the sense of who this award memorializes — Franz Boas, who many hold as the father of American anthropology. He was involved in ‘big science’ — larger projects involved in the under-standing of human variation among different groups in the United States. “The other aspect of importance to me is the fact that Franz Boas was significantly involved in grad- uate education,” Garruto said. “He trained more than two dozen PhDs during his career, including Margaret Mead.” The two men share more than an interest in human biology and the award. Both earned graduate degrees at Pennsylvania State University, working with the same mentor, Paul Baker, now professor emeritus of biological anthropology.

It is the connection that they see — from Boas, to their mentor, to the work they are trying to do at Binghamton — which makes the award especially meaningful. Like Boas, Baker worked on similar projects and trained graduate students.

“Paul Baker, our mentor in the early to mid ’60s at Penn State, distinguished himself in very similar ways to Boas by conducting large science — including the ‘Man in the Andes’ project. We were both trained under that program,” Little said.

Now, both men are following that tradition, working with graduate students at the University.

“We hope that together in the program we have here now, we train our students in the field and in the lab in understanding human variation and the impact of culture and behavior on health and disease,” Little said.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08