Tributes to
J. Desmond Clark


My tribute to J. Desmond Clark,

I met Desmond when I was a graduate student at the Crop Evolution Lab at the University of Illinois. At that time my major advisors, Jack Harlan and Jan deWet, were planning a symposium: Origins of African Plant Domestication. Jack confessed he wasn't quite sure how to go about planning this Wenner-Gren Symposium. So he turned to Desmond for help. Desmond had been involved in lots of them! Because I was the student most involved with the study of African domesticates and African archaeology, I got to be the note-taker at the symposium. Lucky me! The symposium, held in a castle in the Austrian Alps, was hosted by Lita Osmundsen and her staff. It was the most gracious setting imaginable for an academic conference. The Burg-Wartenstein meetings were kept small, so the participants could all sit around a great round table and bring together the existing evidence and ideas relating to a particular topic in anthropology. It was an exciting and awe-inspiring experience for a young graduate student. Desmond contributed his vast knowledge to that gathering and helped facilitate an incredibly stimulating and cordial exchange of ideas among archaeologists and plant scientists .Desmond later called on us at the Crop Evolution Lab to identify carbonized domesticated sorghum found at the site his team had excavated at Jebel et Tomat in the Central Sudan. He also encouraged me to identify and document the evidence of plant remains discovered by other archaeologists working in Africa. As I reflect on these and many other wonderful times with Desmond, I know my life has been immeasurably enriched by knowing him. Desmond was a genuinely kind, magnetic, and caring person. He, together with his very kind wife, Betty, created an ever-expanding circle of people who joined them, and worked together, and shared their efforts to bring to light the history of Africa. Desmond knew what each of us could contribute and brought together those of us who could help one another. Because of his gracious and cooperative approach, scientists from a diverse range of disciplines contributed a wide range of skills and perspectives to the quest for an understanding of human history. We each gave what we could and we were immeasurably repaid for our efforts by being part of the circle of scientists and friends of Desmond and Betty Clark. Desmond and Betty welcomed us into their world and lives and made us feel we were part of their family. They got to know us as people and cared about us and they brought out the best in us. I hope that those of us whose lives have been enriched by knowing them, will honor Desmond and Betty by emulating their approach to life. Let each of us be as inclusive as we can and build and nurture a circle of friends and colleagues who help one another and who share a quest for knowledge. Through our collaborative efforts and caring human relationships, the essence of
Desmond's life and spirit will be carried on.

-Ann Stemler, De Anza College, Biology Department, Cupertino CA