UCSB anthropology professor Phillip L. Walker died after a suspected heart attack last Friday. He was 61 years old.
Walker, husband of former Goleta Mayor Cynthia Brock, had been a professor at UCSB since 1974. While at UCSB, Walker – a leading scholar in the field of physical anthropology and bioarchaeology – dedicated his research to studying cultures through the examination of skeletal remains from Africa, Central Asia and Europe.
Anthropology professor Michael Glassow said he would always remember Walker as an intellectually stimulating and extremely approachable colleague.
“Phil was just a very creative thinker,” Glassow said. “He was kind of a big picture thinker, you could say. I always enjoyed my discussions with him because he was always thinking about the larger meaning of things. He was a very easy person to talk to – always friendly and outgoing. It’s just a sad thing that we’ve lost him.”
Anthropology Dept. Chair Katharina Schreiber noted that Walker’s achievements in advancing archeological exploration were widely lauded in academic circles.
“He was one of the founders of the whole field of bioarchaeology and probably the leading bioarcheologist in the world,” Schreiber said.
Walker authored more than 200 scholarly articles and reports in his lifetime. In addition to his archeological achievements, Walker was an accomplished artist, musician and woodworker. In his free time, Walker enjoyed crafting a variety of musical instruments ranging from violins to banjos.
Fellow anthropology professor Steven Gaulin said Walker’s presence as a professor and a mentor will be sorely missed.
“Not only was he an influential bioarcheologist, but a fantastic colleague and a brilliant guy,” Gaulin said. “He had a lot of Ph.D students that came specifically to study with him, and he will be very missed.”
Walker’s spring courses – Anthropology 112: Bioarchaeology and Anthropology 121: Human Evolution – have been closed on GOLD for the time being. The future of these courses has yet to be determined.
According to a UCSB press release, Walker was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2003 and served as president from the time of his appointment until 2005. Walker also held the position of vice president of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists from 2000-02.
Additionally, Walker was the co-director of an excavation project that recently uncovered a Viking Age graveyard in Iceland. He also served as a Native American repatriation advisor to the Society for American Archaeology; in April, he will be posthumously awarded the Presidential Recognition Award for his efforts.
Walker’s memorial service is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 22. Further details will be made available on the anthropology department Web site at http://www.anth.ucsb.edu.
A Web site – http://phil-walker.net – has also been created in his honor to host stories and photographs.