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Robert Kemper

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Robert Kemper Obituary
Kemper, Robert Van Robert Van Kemper, 67, of Waxahachie and Dallas, TX, died on Friday morning, November 8, 2013; of complications related to multiple myeloma. Van was born November 21, 1945, in San Diego, CA. He was salutatorian of the Class of 1962 of Helix High School, and recently attended his 50th class reunion, where he received an "award" for being the most newly-wed. Van received his B.A. (summa cum laude) in Social Sciences and History from the University of California at Riverside in 1966, and proceeded immediately to graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. There he received his M.A. (1969) and Ph.D. (1971) in Anthropology, and, through the influence of his mentor George M. Foster, developed a lifelong relationship with the people and migrants of the Mexican village of Tzintzuntzan. Van began his academic career at Southern Methodist University in the fall of 1972, reaching the rank of Professor in 1983. Over the course of 41 years of service at the university he taught more than 30 different courses, not only in the Department of Anthropology but also in Perkins School of Theology, Cox School of Business, Meadows School of the Arts, and Dedman School of Law; and the Masters in Bilingual Education and Masters of Liberal Studies programs. Additionally, he served brief terms as a Visiting Professor at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and the Colegio de Michoacan (Zamora, Mich.). Van served two terms as Chair of the Department of Anthropology and one year as President of the Faculty Senate, where colleagues marveled at and benefited from his encyclopedic knowledge of Robert's Rules of Order. He received several teaching awards over the course of his career, and was much loved by graduate students in particular for his gentle guidance and his tireless efforts to secure more funding for their support. A prolific writer, Van published more than 20 books and journal issues (as author, editor, or both) and more than 140 journal articles and book chapters. Indeed, at least two books and two additional chapters were in the publication process at the time of his death. Van enjoyed collaborating with other scholars in writing and publishing, whether established colleagues or inexperienced students. He also served on the editorial boards of numerous professional journals, including a three year term as Editor of Human Organization, the flagship journal of the Society for Applied Anthropology. Van was a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Society for Applied Anthropology. He was a member of numerous interest groups and sections within the AAA as well, and had been a founding member and one-time President of the Society for Urban Anthropology (later renamed SUNTA), at a time when many in his field still considered "urban anthropology" to be a contradiction in terms. In 1996 Van felt a pull to do something different with his life - not in place of, but in addition to, his anthropological career. He entered Perkins School of Theology at SMU, where he completed his M.Div. degree in 1999 (summa cum laude, ranked 1st in his class), all the while continuing to teach a full course load (with overloads) in the anthropology department. Van was ordained to the Ministry of Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) in September 1999, and served as Parish Associate at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Oak Cliff (Dallas) from 1999 until that church closed in 2008. His social-science training made him a much sought-after consultant on issues of "congregation and community"; he and Julie (first, his mentor pastor; then, his student in anthropology; eventually, his wife) consulted with more than 50 churches in north and west Texas, and with United Methodist church leaders in Kansas. In more recent years he was a well regarded supply preacher for various small churches in Grace Presbytery (north and northeast Texas). Van was predeceased by his father, Ivan L. Kemper, sister Sunday (Kemper) Berry, and first wife Sandra (Kraft) Kemper. He is survived by his wife, Julie Adkins; son, John K. Kemper; mother, Roberta (King) Kemper; sister, Ann Kemper; sister-in-law, Karen Kraft; nieces, nephews, and numerous cousins. Van is also survived by his "family" in Mexico: sisters Lola and Virginia Pichu and their friend Maria Flores; as well as many friends and colleagues in the church and the academy; in the U.S. and Mexico. A memorial service and celebration of Van's life will be held on Saturday, November 16; at 2:00 p.m. at NorthPark Presbyterian Church (9555 N. Central Expy.), Dallas. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to: the Robert Van Kemper Endowment Fund for Research in Social and Cultural Anthropology at SMU (att'n: Pamela Hogan, Dept. of Anthropology, SMU; P. O. Box 750336; Dallas, TX 75275-0336); or Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (Presbyterian Church [USA], P. O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700 or http://www.presbyterianmission.org/ministries/give/pda/ , where you can enter memorial information on the appropriate screen); or the .


Published in Dallas Morning News on Nov. 15, 2013
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