In Memoriam

Elliot Percival Skinner (1924-2007)

Elliot Percival Skinner, the renowned anthropologist and the first black scholar to win tenure at Columbia University, died earlier this month in Washington, D.C. He was 82 years old.

Skinner, the Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, was a native of Trinidad and Tobago. He immigrated to the United States and became a citizen, serving in the U.S. Army during World War II. After the war he studied anthropology at Columbia, earning a Ph.D. in 1955. His dissertation explored the group dynamics of ethnic minorities in a rural area of British Guiana.

Professor Skinner joined the New York University faculty in 1963 but moved uptown to Columbia in 1966. He was named to the endowed Boas chair in 1969 and served as department chair from 1972 to 1975. He took a leave of absence from Columbia to serve for three years as U.S. ambassador to Upper Volta.

Professor Skinner was the author of the 1975 book African Urban Life: The Transformation of Ouagadougou. He later wrote Beyond Constructive Engagement: United States Foreign Policy Toward Africa.

In 1985 the African Studies Association presented him with their highest award. The citation stated that, “On the African continent, the field of African studies in America is as much identified with Elliot Skinner as with any other American scholar.”

James D. Foster (1938-2007)

James D. Foster, a former faculty member and administrator at the University of Dentistry and Medicine of New Jersey, died earlier this month after a long illness. He was 69 years old.

Foster was a graduate of Hampton Institute and went on to earn a master’s degree from Farleigh Dickinson University. He served as a probation officer in Newark before being hired as an instructor of preventive medicine at UDMNJ. He was later named assistant dean of minority affairs at the university. Foster retired in 2001.