Barbara J. Thiel
Message from the Provost
It is with a very heavy heart that I write to you to share the news of the passing of Dr. Barbara Thiel, Associate Professor of Anthropology. Dr. Thiel earned the Ph.D. in 1980 from the University of Illinois and began her career at NKU in 1979. Her specializations in anthropology included Southeast Asian archaeology, agricultural origins, human ecology, early hominid evolution and Ohio Valley archaeology.
Dr. Thiel played a key role in establishing the vibrant anthropology program at NKU – this program has more undergraduate anthropology majors than any other public or private college or university in Kentucky and entire the tri-state metropolitan area.
Dr. Judy Voelker wrote, “Barbara loved teaching and interacting with students.” She was dedicated to educating future generations of archaeologists. Her students have commented that she was a “source of inspiration” and dedicated to their success. They were actively engaged in experiential learning as they conducted excavations at sites such as the Dunn Village Site in Mentor, KY and the Fort Ancient site. Dr Voelker recalls that, “Students have vivid memories of Barbara teaching field school at Dunn Village each year during intersession. She was thorough and quite specific in what constituted proper field techniques. She often used her experiences in field research in the Philippines as a starting point for her lectures on archaeological methods and theory. Students thoroughly enjoyed hearing about her field experiences and learning about her cultural interactions with local villagers.”
She mentored students involved in undergraduate research opportunities, served as the faculty advisor to the Lambda Alpha national anthropology honor society and was the co-op coordinator for anthropology. Both current students and alumni were appreciative of the important role she played in their education. Dr. Sharlotte Neely shares, “Barbara trained her students so well that archaeology companies loved to hire them. Having been trained by Barbara was a guarantee of one’s expertise, dedication, and ethics.” As evidence of this appreciation, in 2001 she received the Strongest Influence Award– an honor awarded by the NKU Alumni Association. She continued to work with students even after graduation to support them as they searched for positions and responded to requests for assistance related to their work.
Dr. Thiel’s colleagues have commented on her many professional contributions to the anthropology program. She taught large numbers of students in a broad range of courses crucial to the program and was active in the development of the major and the multidisciplinary Evolutionary Studies minor. She was actively involved in recruiting new faculty members. One colleague, Dr. Doug Hume, recalls her sense of humor during the interview process as playing a role in his eventual acceptance of a position at NKU.
Her colleagues also recall memories of a more personal nature. For example, Dr. Mary Carol Hopkins recalls the delicious (and abundant) cookies she baked for events; her lovingly decorated Christmas trees; her welcoming of the young children of colleagues for visits at the summer dig sites and her stories/pictures of her field research in the Philippines. Dr. Neely reports, “Barbara never forgot the people in the Philippines among whom she did her Ph.D. dissertation research. For years she sent money to that village to educate their children.”
Dr. Thiel will be greatly missed by her students, colleagues and friends. I know you will join me in offering our deepest sympathy and heart-felt condolences to all who knew her.
Information regarding arrangements will be shared when available.
Gail Wells, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, Northern Kentucky University
Research & Teaching Interests
Archaeology; physical anthropology; Southeast Asian Archaeology; North American archaeology; field and lab methods; archaeological theory; early agriculture; human ecology; Neolithic; early hominid evolution; hunters and gatherers; cultural anthropology.
- Ph.D. University of Illinois
- M.A. University of Missouri, Columbia
- B.A. University of Kentucky
- ANT 100 Cultural Anthropology
- ANT 110 Introduction to Archaeology
- ANT 210 Introduction to Archaeological Method and Theory
- ANT 350 North American Archaeology
- ANT 355 Archaeological Laboratory Analysis
- ANT 392 Research Topics in Archaeology
- ANT 410 Archaeological Theory
- 2001 Strongest Influence Award, Northern Kentucky University Alumni Association
- 1974 Teaching Assistant Excellence Award, University of Missouri, Department of Anthropology