Dr. Robert E.
January 30, 1942 - March 24, 2010
E. Rhoades, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Georgia-Athens,
was widely regarded as one of the founders of the field of agricultural
anthropology. His career in both academic and applied anthropology spanned
more than 30 years during which he wrote over 130 publications and
received numerous honors for his efforts. While the first part of his
career focused on international agriculture and development, his last
decade increasingly turned to the application of anthropology to local
food and environmental issues in the United States.
He was born on a farm in
southern Oklahoma in 1942. After two years of college at Oklahoma State
University, he joined the United States Peace Corps in 1962 and was sent
to Nepal, an experience which dramatically altered his outlook on life.
Afterwards, he returned to Oklahoma State and completed his B.S. degree
with a double specialization in agriculture and sociology. In 1966, he
received an East West Center Fellowship at the University of Hawaii where
he studied international development and sociology. As a part of the
fellowship, he spent a year abroad at the University of Philippines-Los
Banos and the International Rice Research Institute studying the diffusion
of IR-8 or "miracle rice". In 1968, he turned to farming part-time as well
as teaching at Phillips University, a liberal arts college in Enid,
Oklahoma. As the viability of the family farm in this region of the US
continued to decline, he decided to continue his education in anthropology
at the University of Oklahoma where he received his Ph.D. in 1976.
After teaching two more
years and conducting research on labor migrants in Europe and the US, he
accepted a Rockefeller Foundation Research Fellowship and was sent to
Lima, Peru, to work with scientists at the International Potato Center. As
one of the first social scientists to work in the Consultative Group for
International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), he was able to help pioneer
new perspectives in interdisciplinary, participatory approaches to
agricultural and natural resource management. His "farmer-back-to-farmer
model" (with Robert Booth) is considered a classic in development circles
and was a forerunner to much of the present-day activity in participatory
research and development. The model was based on team experience in
generating small-scale storage systems which were adopted by thousands of
farmers in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In 1988, he transferred to
Asia where he founded UPWARD (User's Perspective with Agricultural
Research and Development), a pan-Asian network aimed at generating
agricultural technology which is user-friendly and environmentally safe.
In 1991, he accepted the
Headship of the Department of Anthropology, University of Georgia. Within
two three-year appointments as Head, he was able to add eight new faculty
lines, establish five new laboratories, increase the external funding ten
fold, implement a new graduate and undergraduate program, and give the
department its first high visibility in its fifty year history. During
this same time, Dr. Rhoades brought in more than 2.5 million dollars in
external funds through the various research programs he manages. In 1994,
he was appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture to serve on the National
Genetic Resources Council, a citizen body which advises the Secretary on
plant genetic resources. In that same year, he gave the Seventh "Tex
Frazier" Distinguished Lecture before the American Society for
Horticulture Sciences Annual Meeting. In 1997, with Virginia Nazarea, he
Southern Seed Legacy, a network of southern gardeners and seed savers
preserving old varieties of vegetables, fruits, and crops.
He was appointed to numerous
boards of international research organizations, more recently IBSRAM
(International Board Soil Research and Management in Bangkok, Thailand)
and TSBF (Tropical Soil Biology and Fertility Institute in Nairobi,
Kenya). In 2000, he was elected North American Board Member to the
International Mountain Forum and was heavily involved in the UN
International Year of the Mountain during 2002. Dr. Rhoades managed a
large interdisiciplinary sustainable agriculture and natural resource
management project (SANREM-Andes) in Ecuador funded through the CRSP
(Collaborative Research Support Program) of USAID. During 2002 he won the
coveted William A. Owens Creative Research Award at the University of
Georgia and was appointed a Senior Fulbright Scholar to Ecuador. Dr.
Rhoades produced six PhDs while at the University of Georgia and was
Chairperson for another six PhD candidates [at the time of this writing].
Many of his graduate students worked in his lab or on his projects in the
Robert Rhoades was keenly
interested in making natural resource and agricultural issues
understandable to the educated lay public. He wrote regularly for National
Geographic Magazine, an effort which gave him national acclaim. In 1991,
he was awarded the National Science Writers Award for his National
Geographic article on the world food supply and biodiversity.
Finally, he was the founding
Executive Director of
Agrarian Connections, a non-profit educational and research
organization working toward the preservation of rural landscapes and
lifeways. The organization worked to restore a 312 acre degraded cotton
farm in the Georgia Piedmont, including the historical farm structures
representing four time periods from pre-European down to the present.
University of Georgia Faculty Page
Robert E. Rhoades, Distinguished Research Professor of Anthropology at the
University of Georgia, was born January 30, 1942 and passed away on March
24, 2010. He filled the moments in between with writing, teaching,
research, administration, activism, farming, log-cabin building and
heirloom cattle raising.
He is survived by his
family: wife, Virginia; son, Tristan; daughters, Danila and Natasha;
son-in-law, James; brother and sister-in-law, George and Lynn; and
sister-in-law and brother-in-law, Josefina and Alois. He will be fondly
remembered and sorely missed by family and friends, and students and
colleagues, whose lives he touched.
There was a visitation at
the Day Chapel of the State Botanical Garden from 9 to 11 a.m. on March
25, 2010 with transition rites at 11 a.m. Interment was at noon at the
Oconee Hill Cemetery, followed by a luncheon at the Sexton's House.
Bridges Funeral Home, Athens, was in charge of arrangements.
Google Citation Page for Dr. Rhodes
E. Rhoades – John Van Willigen:Oral History Interview for the Society
for Applied Anthropology," March 7, 2002.
Distinguished Research Professor 2006, University of Georgia.
Faculty page at the University of Georgia, June 13, 2010.