Tributes to
J. Desmond Clark


Desmond was one of the people who made life worth living. His enthusiasm for learning, even little things, was infectious. His sense of humor was good for everyone around him. By being himself he helped make our own lives fun and interesting. There is no way to say in words what I wish could be said. Many people are said to have been inspirational. As Desmond's student (albeit a very minor one), I can say that he inspired me throughout the 26 years I knew him. How do you describe that? That I got a warm feeling of optimiism and the goodness of life when I thought of him. That science was something done by real people, fun people, and I was welcome there.
When I first came to know him, the first thing that deeply impressed me was his natural, very simple way of making every single student he talked with feel special, important. Oh how I wish I had that gift. We communicated with one another in the language of stone tools; I was always eager to show him something new; he was always delighted. I cannot think of the Acheulean without simultaneously thinking of Desmond and feeling his presence--it's been that way with me for years.

The incredible productivity that Desmond maintained long after going practically blind will always remind me that I can take heart, and give, despite trying circumstances. And though he could not see us very well, he still made us feel special--each one of us--very simply--his love of life and enthusiasm for life flowed forth as enthusiasm and love for each of us. He couldn't help that.

Desmond invited me to go to Gadeb in Ethiopia in 1976/7. At that time I was a young graduate student in paleontology, with deep interest in African prehistory and a dream of going to Africa. I was in his African Prehistory course, and I was a little miffed that he made me take the final exam while I was feeling incapacitated from the yellow fever innoculation required for the trip. That all worked out, but things did not go so well in Ethiopia. While we were there, the political and social situation became pretty desparate. I had great difficulty dealing with archaeology under those circumstances, and I ended up leaving the field early even though Desmond really wanted my help. Desmond had every reason to be very upset with me; but he accepted my decision with patience and kindness. When we met back in Berkeley he welcomed me again as a student and a friendship that will always be dear to me grew from this.

I recently had to give a lecture before a rather intimidating audience, on a subject bound to provoke debate and strong feelings. I was very nervous. I decided to deal with this in part by printing "Desmond" at the top of my first page of lecture notes, so I would remember that it was OK to take the affair a little less seriously, relax and have some fun.

One of the most treasured memories I will carry with me all my life is the memory of what Desmond always said to me by way of saying goodbye, or good night. I expect I am not the only one carrying close to his heart that precious memory.

-Stephen W. Edwards