Popular Professor To Direct Peabody

A popular teacher and chair of Harvard’s anthropology department will take over as head of the Peabody Museum, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences announced yesterday.

William L. Fash Jr., Bowditch professor of Central American and Mexican archeology and ethnology, will replace Rubie S. Watson as the second Howells Director of the Peabody Museum on January 1, 2004.

“It’s an exciting appointment for me and I’m very pleased with the new post,” Fash said.

Fash, 49, said that he hopes to build on the work of his predecessor in areas such as “digitalization of the Museum’s vast collections and outreach to the greater Boston community.”

“I would like to make the collections even more available for teaching and research,” Fash said, adding that the Museum’s archeological materials are useful teaching tools for undergraduates.

Fash said that he is thinking about hiring more curators to help him make the collections more readily available to students.

He added that he will likely make arrangements to have someone “take care of the day-to-day details,” as he said he would not reduce his teaching load.

“I’m devoted to teaching,” Fash said. “I’ll wither up and die without teaching.”

According to Fash, Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby wants him to continue as an active teacher and researcher. Fash currently co-teaches the popular Foreign Cultures 34, “Mesoamerican Civilizations” with David L. Carrasco, Rudestine professor of the study of Latin America.

In his announcement, Kirby recognized Fash’s contribution to the department, and expressed confidence that he will continue to distinguish himself as the head of the Museum.

“Bill brings to this position a deep familiarity with and respect for the Peabody Museum and its mission,” Kirby said. “He is a renowned scholar and teacher, who has already served with distinction as chair of our Anthropology Department. He knows well the significant challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Fash came to Harvard from Northern Illinois University in 1995 and became the chair of the department in 1998.

Watson, who announced earlier in the year that she would step down from the directorship on Dec. 31, 2003, will be going on a research trip to Hong Kong and mainland China but will come back to the University as a lecturer and curator in Fall 2004.

A new chair of the anthropology department has not yet been named.

—Staff writer Yailett Fernandez can be reached at yfernand@fas.harvard.edu.