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University at Buffalo Libraries

University Archives

Marian E. White (1921-1975)

Marian White Professor
Department of Anthropology
Years at UB: 1958-1975

University Archives collections, 22/9F/422, 22/9F/579

UB Anthropology Professor Frederick Gearing said that "Anthropology was Marian White's vocation. More than that, it was her life. More than that, even, anthropology was her religion" (Reporter, 11/6/1975). Indeed, Marian White, a Professor of Anthropology in the College of Arts and Sciences, dedicated her career to western New York archaeology during her sixteen years of service at UB.

In 1942 White graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor's degree. Shortly after graduation she joined the Army Air Force, working from 1944 to 1945 as an IBM Tabulator Machine Operator.

Upon her return to civilian life, she held a position as a Science Guide at the Buffalo Museum of Science until 1952. White became the first woman to graduate from the University of Michigan with a doctorate in Anthropology in 1956.

After receiving her Ph.D., White worked for the next two years at the Rochester Museum of Arts and Sciences. Initially, White worked as a Research Associate in Archaeology at UB while simultaneously holding the position of Assistant Curator of Anthropology at the Buffalo Museum of Science. She also served as the Assistant Curator of Archaeology at the Buffalo and Erie County Historical Society. In 1968, White was made full Professor in the Department of Anthropology, a position she held until her death on October 31, 1975.

White's archaeological fieldwork took her to Native American sites in New York, Illinois, and Canada. Her growing interest in highway salvage -- protecting important Native American archaeological sites from highway development -- led her to a variety of administrative honors and positions. In 1969, she established the Highway Salvage program at UB to protect lands from highway and industrial development. Her involvement in Native American issues did not end with her professional work; she often volunteered for the same Native American communities who had claims to the sites on which she worked. The Auburn Historical Society awarded White the Cornplanters Medal for her work with the Iroquois.

Marian White was an important part of efforts to preserve the local and regional history:

  • She served as the first President of the New York Archaeological Council from 1972 to 1974.
  • She served as the Director of the Niagara Frontier Archaeological Project
  • She was appointed by Governor Rockefeller to the New York State Board on Historic Preservation.

During her lifetime, White envisioned an anthropological research museum that would house the artifacts of North American archaeology. In 1979, the Marian E. White Anthropology Museum was established in association with the Anthropology Library.

She also helped organize the UB Archaeological Survey which trains qualified Cultural Resource Management (CRM) professionals and provides CRM services to Western New York. The Survey's mission praises White as a "a staunch proponent and pioneer of historic preservation and CRM archaeology. The Survey continues as a legacy to her recognition of the need for qualified local professionals with regional interests in public archaeology and archaeological site protection."


Other Photographs

Marian White at an archaeological dig Marian White