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Vincent Hart Stefan

Vincent Hart Stefan, Professor of Anthropology at Lehman College and the CUNY Graduate Center, died on March 31, 2017, after a long struggle with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PCS) and ulcerative colitis.  He was 55 years old. Vince served Lehman College, CUNY and the broader community in many ways, including as Chair of the Department of Anthropology at Lehman from 2009-2014 and as a forensic anthropologist working with numerous medical examiners across the region. He was a long-time member and supporter of the Easter Island Foundation.

Vince was born November 24, 1961 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and was a naturalized citizen of the United States. He attended the University of Wyoming from 1980 through 1984 and received a BA in Zoology and minored in Physical Anthropology. After college, he joined the U.S. Navy, rising from Ensign to Lt. Commander prior to his separation in 1996. He served with distinction on several ships, focusing on electronic warfare & electrical engineering, and served as Chief Engineer on a minesweeper. He retired from active duty in March of 1993 and was a reservist in the United States Naval Reserve until full separation in 1996.

He attended the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and received an MS in Anthropology in 1995 and his Ph.D. in 2000. His dissertation was entitled Craniometric Variation and Biological Affinity of the Prehistoric Rapanui (Easter Islanders): Their Origin, Evolution, and Place in Polynesian Prehistory, which was published as a book by Verlag in 2009. As a student, Vince wrote several articles and over 80 case reports as a forensic anthropological consultant to the Office of the Medical Investigator, University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM and to New Mexico State Law Enforcement Agencies.

Vince was hired as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Lehman College, CUNY, in 2000 and later became a full-time Assistant Professor. He was promoted to Associate Professor in 2006 and Professor in 2013. He participated fully in the life of the Anthropology Department at the College, teaching several courses and mentoring undergraduate students. His courses (both the general Introductions to Human Evolution and Human Variation; and the more specialized Human Osteology and Forensic Anthropology) were sought after by students. He served as the Co-Director of the Interdisciplinary B.S. Major in Anthropology (Physical), Biology and Chemistry throughout his career at Lehman.

Vince was elected to the CUNY graduate faculty in 2001 and was simultaneously a Core Faculty member of NYCEP (the New York Consortium in Evolutionary Primatology). He taught courses in statistics and human biology, served on the Admissions committee and advised several Ph.D. students. He also was an Anthropology Panel Member, University Committee on Research Awards/PSC-CUNY Faculty Research Awards from 2003-2007.

Vince’s own research focused on human craniology, especially as related to the peopling of the Pacific. He studied the osteology of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) and published a number of papers on this and other Pacific island populations. In 2016, he edited and co-authored Skeletal Biology of the Ancient Rapanui (Easter Islanders) for Cambridge University Press with his University of Wyoming mentor and long-time colleague George Gill. Vince and George, who were close colleagues, went to Easter Island together twice to collect data on the Rapa Nui skeletal material collection. Vince worked with UW Anthropology students on both trips and on various other research projects.

In 2004, Vince was named a Fellow of the Physical Anthropology Section, American Academy of Forensic Sciences and in 2005, he was named a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology (DABFA), the highest recognition in his field. He served the Medical Examiners in several counties in NY, participating in and writing reports on 77 cases from 2000 to 2011, when federal funding replaced the need for outside consultants. He wrote several journal articles on forensic anthropological questions in addition to site reports. He participated annually in the meetings of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, often presenting his research results. He served as a forensic anthropological member of DMORT II, part of the National Disaster Medical System, U.S. Public Health Service (later Department of Homeland Security), working at World Trade Center (September, 2001) and after Hurricane Katrina in Mississippi (September-October, 2005).

In addition to anthropology, Vince enjoyed hunting, and he spent several weeks each fall hunting large game in Northern Minnesota along the Canadian border. He was an avid outdoorsman when he had the time and energy. He was a Renaissance man with many interests within the forensic community and outside of academics. In addition, he enjoyed working with his hands and doing a myriad of home improvement projects.

Vince is survived by his wife of 28 years, Joy Stefan; his father, Hart Stefan; and his sister, Terri Stefan Nevarez. For all who knew Vince, he was clearly seen as a dedicated anthropologist, a hard-working individual and a reliable person.  He will be missed very much by all those who knew him.

We express our appreciation to Joy Stefan and George Gill for contributing the information above, and special thanks to Paul Horley for the image of Vince.

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