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Albert Dekin, associate professor of anthropology, dies at age 66

Albert Dekin, 66, died at his home Jan. 28.

Dekin earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Dartmouth College and his doctorate in anthropology from Michigan State University. He taught at SUNY-Potsdam and conducted archaeological research in advance of construction of the Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline for the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, before joining the faculty at Binghamton in 1976.

Well known for his work assessing the archaeological, historical and cultural resources damage caused by the Exxon Valdez oil spill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, Dekin served as director of the Public Archaeology Facility for 11 years.

Nina Versaggi, current PAF director, had just completed her master’s degree at Binghamton in 1976.

“There were a number of graduate students floating and not knowing what was going to happen,” she said. “And in walked this bearded man who inherited a lot of graduate students and turned the PAF into a flourishing, vibrant research center.

“He laid the groundwork. He introduced rigor to our research methods and he taught us how to be managers. He introduced innovative ideas about how to look at the past and allowed us to be individuals within that framework,” she added. “His philosophy was to give us tools that we could use and he would say ‘I’ve given you the tools and I’m going to get out of the way. Do what you want with them and come to me with questions.’”

Tracking down photos of Dekin is easier said than done, Versaggi explained.
“He prided himself on being a photographer,” she said. “But he was always on the other side of the camera — a dynamo who moved around a lot.”

John (Jake) Kilmarx, who worked with Dekin since 1981, first as a graduate student and then in a variety of managerial roles at Binghamton, now associate vice president for academic administration at Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), said that “Over the decades, Al basically built the department and put Binghamton on the map. Intellectually, and practically, the department was a home, a community, a haven and an incubator, for faculty and students alike.

“Students in class and his advisees were drawn to his magnetic personality, his infectious — and loud — laugh and his sensibility to words and behaviors. He was a great believer in his students’ individual potentials. He was very dedicated to helping them learn and reach their goals,” Kilmarx said.

Dekin served as chair of the Department of Anthropology for several terms, and also held a number of administrative appointments, including acting associate dean of Harpur College, acting director of libraries, associate dean of Harpur College, executive director of the Pegasus Project and chair of the Department of Human Development.

In those roles, he was a force: forward-looking in time of great transition for the libraries, helping to manage Harpur College’s resources and leading a transformative, campus-wide effort to update the University’s infrastructure through the Pegagus Project.

Noting that Dekin was “a complete thinker,” Kilmarx added that, “Al’s academic and managerial rigor was notorious, but his kindness was pervasive. He consumed information omnivorously, and shared with abandon and great kindness. Everything he had to give, he offered. Sometimes it was a torrent of books and clippings and insights and stories. Often, it was more tangible: ‘What do you want for dinner? Ham or turkey? I’m making both!’”

Dekin is survived by his son and three daughters and their spouses, 11 grandchildren and the mother of his children

Memorial gifts may be made to Binghamton University for graduate student travel or to a charity of your own choosing. Gifts to Binghamton University should be sent to Binghamton University Foundation Memorial Account #10351, Binghamton University Foundation, P.O. Box 6005, Binghamton, NY 13902-6005. Note “in memory of Albert Dekin Jr.” in the memo section of your check.

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Last Updated: 10/14/08