The University Record, October 15, 1997


Roy A. Rappaport

Roy A. Rappaport, professor of anthropology and director of the University¹s Program on Studies in Religion, died Oct. 9 at his home of cancer. He was 71.

Rappaport was an internationally respected scholar, and devoted most of his work to the study of religion, in particular the relationship between religion, society and ecology. His first book, Pigs for the Ancestors, based on his ethnographic field wo rk with the Maring people of New Guinea, was first published in 1968 and established his reputation.

His forthcoming book, Holiness and Humanity, completed during his illness, embodies his work and thought of the intervening 30 years, and has been described as “a milestone in the anthropology of religion, comparable in scope to the work of his great p redecessor, Emile Durkheim.”

In all, Rappaport wrote four books and more than 60 articles, reviews and book chapters. He consulted for educational, anthropological and environmental projects, including the National Academy of Sciences Task Force, advising the president on outer c ontinental shelf oil leasing. He also was for many years a consultant for the state of Nevada and to Nye County concerning the storage of nuclear waste a Yucca Mountain. Among his many academic honors was election to both the American Association for th e Advancement of Science and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

His intellectual rigor and integrity were complemented by an extraordinary generosity of spirit. He had said that “humanity must think not merely of the world, but on behalf of the world of which it is a very special part, and to which, therefore, it has enormous responsibilities.”

For his part, he was a loyal and conscientious citizen of many communities-the University, the discipline of anthropology, the United States-which he served as chair of the Department of Anthropology, as president of the American Anthropological Associ ation, and as a member of numerous national committees on environmental issues.

Known to his friends as “Skip,” Rappaport was born March 25, 1926, in New York City. He enlisted in the Army at age 17 and was awarded the Purple Heart after being wounded in action. He received his undergraduate degree in hotel administration from C ornell University, and then open Avaloch, a country inn across from Tanglewood in Lenox, Mass. Although he eventually traded innkeeping for academia, receiving his Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1966, he never lost his gift for hospitality. He truly enjoyed entertaining, and took deep pleasure in great food and conversation.

Rappaport is survived by his wife, Ann; two daughters, Amelia and Gina; and a sister, Nancy Kaufman. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ann Arbor Hillel Foundation or the Roy A. Rappaport Memorial Fund to support broad topics in anthropological research at the University.

Submitted by the Department of Anthropology


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