Colorado College Professor Emerita of Anthropology Marianne Stoller, who retired in 1998, passed away Sunday, Dec. 13. She served as chair of CC’s Anthropology Department twice throughout her career, as well as directing the college’s Southwest Studies summer institutes.
A fascination with the interactions of different cultures inspired Stoller’s career and life. She led summer digs in the late 1980s and early ‘90s that uncovered a 17th-century Spanish Colonial estancia, or ranch, in La Cienega, New Mexico. Stoller’s team accomplished significant work over the course of the years at the site, one of only six known pre-revolt Spanish colonial sites in New Mexico.
Stoller graduated from Adams State College with a degree in art, and went on to receive a master’s degree in anthropology from Denver University with an emphasis on the art of Oceania. She was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study Maori art in New Zealand, and also studied in the Fiji Islands and Tahiti. It was while in Tahiti that she became interested in ethnographic history; the study of people in historic times, which she defined as the time after European contact and conquest. Stoller received her Ph.D. in ethnohistory from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979 and returned to Colorado, gradually drifting back to her “first love,” – the Southwest.
An article in the spring 1998 issue of La Tertulia quotes Stoller as saying the highlight of her career at CC was “aiding and abetting” Joe Gordon in establishing the Southwest Studies program. “Neither had any experience in area studies, although Stoller had some field experience in the Southwest as an undergraduate in the Archaeological Field School at Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico and had planned some short field strips when she taught at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs,” according to the article.
It was Stoller’s Ethnohistory of the Southwest that led to the field work in at the hacienda at La Cienega, and eventually to the establishment of an archaeological field school at the site, which she directed for five summers. The site, thought to predate the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, is believed to have been constructed sometime around 1630, possibly as early as 1609. Stoller launched a drive to purchase the site for preservation, and in 1994 the site was purchased and ownership transferred to a El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a living history museum in La Cienega.
After retiring in 1998, Stoller served on the Board of Managers for the college’s Woman’s Educational Society. She led tours of the Southwest and other regions, including the California missions and the Canadian Rockies, connecting a wide range of people with the college and raising more than $50,000 for WES scholarships. After a landmark legal case that returned usufruct rights to San Luis, Colorado, where Stoller was born and raised, she received an award from the Colorado Lawyers Commission for her work as an expert witness. (Usufruct is a civil law term referring to the right of one individual to use and enjoy the property of another, provided its substance is neither impaired nor altered.)
Stoller was awarded the Gresham Riley Award on Oct. 11, 2014 at CC’s Honors Convocation. The award recognizes faculty, administrators, and staff who have made a significant difference to the college. Stoller joined Colorado in 1969. In 1977 she was listed as assistant professor/chair and in 1979 she was listed as associate professor.
A spring celebration of her life is planned with students, alumni, and colleagues.