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In Memoriam: Svend Holsoe

June 24 memorial service for Liberian scholar

Svend E. Holsoe, 78, associate professor emeritus of anthropology at the University of Delaware, died May 4, 2017, in Philadelphia.

Prof. Holsoe was a renowned scholar of Liberian history and culture, with a particular focus on the Vai people, and one of the largest collectors of documents and artifacts related to that country.

Born in West Virginia, Prof. Holsoe’s interest in Liberia began as a child when his family moved to Monrovia, where his father worked for the Liberian government and for the U.S. Navy.

Prof. Holsoe earned a bachelor’s degree at Haverford College and master’s and doctoral degrees at Boston University.

In 1967, he joined the faculty of DePauw University, where he taught until 1970 and served as the first director of the African Studies program. He established an African anthropological museum in the basement of a building at DePauw and published the Liberian Studies Journal from his office there, continuing as the journal’s editor until 1980.

Prof. Holsoe came to UD in 1970 and was a member of the Department of Anthropology faculty until his retirement in 1995.

Throughout his career, he was considered one of the leading experts in Liberian studies, lecturing on the subject in the United States and around the world. He received the Liberian Studies Association Annual Lifetime Achievement Award and, in 1999, Indiana University’s Chancellors' Medallion. His extensive Svend E. Holsoe Collection is housed at Indiana University.

Prof. Holsoe is survived by his partner, Reuben Mollo James.

A memorial service will take place June 24 at the Friends Meeting House in Lansdowne, Pennsylvania.


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