Professor Anthony Aveni has a lot to celebrate.
As students mark their last week of the spring semester, the Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology and Native American Studies marks the conclusion of his 100th semester teaching at Colgate.
For the past 50 years Aveni has educated scores of students, both on the hill and at archaeological sites around the world. “The only job I’ve ever had,” said Aveni, who not only started Colgate’s first extended study program to Mexico in 1989, but was also recognized as one of Rolling Stone magazine’s top 10 professors in the country.
And while he has received many honors in his distinguished, and ongoing career, Aveni can now include being the first astrophysicist to earn the Fryxell Award for Interdisciplinary Research from the Society for American Archaeology, in recognition for his pioneering work in the field of archaeoastronomy.
“For me, to be recognized by the archaeological community is a thrill,” said Aveni, who didn’t study archaeology until seven years after he started teaching, when he began examining how ancient peoples viewed the sky. That moment of inquisitiveness eventually led to more than 300 research publications to his credit.
“I think it’s a good lesson for students,” Aveni said. “You never know where you might make a contribution to knowledge and do good work. It might be a place you could never imagine.”
If you ask Aveni about receiving the award at a recent conference in Hawaii, he will tell you the most gratifying moment was seeing five Colgate alumni, ranging from the class of ‘1978 to ‘2007, now with advanced degrees, presenting papers about the impact he had on their lives.
“That’s the big news for me,” Aveni said.
David Carballo ’95 is one of those former students of Aveni. He said not only is Aveni deserving of the award, but he is also one of the people most responsible for setting him on his career path.
“I was a political science and Spanish major at Colgate, which I enjoyed very much, but when I took archaeoastronomy in the fall of senior year, that changed my career path,” said Carballo, who later earned a PhD from UCLA and is now an assistant professor of archaeology at Boston University. “In some ways the experience represents to me what is best about Colgate, in that through a liberal-arts curriculum I was able to find my way to what I wanted to do in life and be inspired by an extremely dynamic teacher.”
Ethan Cole ’04 called Aveni’s impact, both in the classroom and in his field of study, immeasurable.
“Within two weeks of taking a class with him, I switched advisors and made him my advisor. That class really changed my life,” said Cole, who recently earned his PhD from UCLA and now works for the start-up emergencylink.com. “He’s just an amazing guy. It was great to see the balance of a professor who is fun in the classroom, caring, and extremely respected in his field.”