Tributes to
J. Desmond Clark


I met Desmond for the first time in December 1979. I was senior student in the Geology Department at Addis Ababa University. The Department Head at the time, Dr. Getaneh Assefa, told me that there is an archaeology professor from the University of California who is interested to train an Ethiopian in African prehistory. I was recommended by the department together with another female student named Senait. One day, both Senait and myself were waiting to meet Desmond Clark at lunch time. At around 12: 30 P.M., Desmond came and he walked straight to the department Head Office. When we saw him, we suspected that he should be the person that we were waiting for. We walked toward him and asked if he was Professor Desmond Clark. He said "Yes, are you the students that Dr. Getaneh Assefa told me that you are interested in prehistory?" We said yes. "Jolly good!, where can we sit and talk?", Desmond said. We went to one of the lecture rooms and he gave us detailed information on prehistory. He asked us one by one what our interest was. At the end, he suggested that Senait may have to apply for the next year's admission, which meant that he accepted me as the candidate. I gave him a copy of my transcript. He told me that he will write to me from Berkeley. Desmond told us that there is a lot to do in Ethiopia if we studied prehistoric archaeology. He went back to Berkeley and after a month I got a letter from him and the rest was just a process for me to go to Berkeley and start my study in prehistoric archaeology.

Ever since I met Demond Clark he was very supportive and encouraging. Out in the field, when we conduct survey in a hot Afar sunny day, or when nobody wants to talk at around mid day, Desmond will always pick up an artifact and start talking about it. He never gets tired and never passes by an artifact without looking at it. Even when he was getting older and it became difficult for him to pick up artifacts every now and then, Desmond will use his cane to turn over the artifact on the ground to look at it. Desmond was not only a mentor but was like a father to me and my family. I and my family got invitations to Desmond's house every Thanksgiving, Christmas or any other holiday during our stay in the US.

My wife also has something to say about Desmond. "I looked at Desmond and Betty as families away from my family when I was in the US. I admire Desmond's determination to continue working in the field all the way through the years after we returned back home. As he was going weaker physically in his later years, his spirits were still as strong as ever. I particularly remember the last year he went for a fieldwork. His colleagues were all trying to take care of him. But no!! he was defiant of all of them. Back in Addis, I had a chance to go to Dinner with him. He was as charming as ever, pulling a chair for me, making sure the Wine is just right and everything is as comfortable as possible for me!! Desmond was such a gentleman and strong spirited person I have ever met. I will miss him dearly."

Desmond left us with a culture of dedication to the field of prehistory and honesty. He was very kind to all and very generous. Betty Clark has lost a great husband and his children, John and Elizabeth have lost a kind and an intellectual father. Desmond is indeed a big loss to all of us and he will be in our memories forever.

-Berhane Asfaw (Ph.D.), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia