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‘Like a Legacy’

As new IUP faculty members in 1988, Phil and Sarah Neusius were planning a trip to Ripley, New York, to lead their first archaeology field school.

In need of a babysitter to tag along for eight weeks, they hired their minister’s daughter, a local high school student named Abigail Adams. Although Adams stayed with the children most of the day, she would occasionally visit the site and watch the archaeologists at work.

Abigail Adams, center, with Sarah and Phil Neusius

Abigail Adams, center, IUP assistant professor, owes her early exposure to anthropology to Sarah and Phil Neusius.

Little could any of them have imagined that, nearly 30 years later, the three would be colleagues in the IUP Anthropology Department. Adams is now in her fifth year, and Phil and Sarah Neusius have served 30 and 31 years, respectively, with plans to retire at the end of the fall semester.

Although Adams specializes in cultural anthropology, she attributes her career path to her time in Ripley. “Absolutely, it was that early exposure,” she said. It led her to take an introductory anthropology course her freshman year and change her major. “I was bit,” she said.

In 2009, as Adams was finishing her PhD, she crossed paths with Phil and Sarah again at the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Philadelphia. Adams ended up taking a temporary teaching position at IUP, followed by a two-year position at another school. By the end of that appointment, there was a tenure-track opening at IUP. “It turned out she was the top candidate,” Phil Neusius said.

Coincidentally, Adams filled the vacancy left by the 2011 retirement of longtime professor Larry Kruckman. Decades earlier, she and Kruckman had teamed up to ask the Indiana school board to drop the “Indian” nickname and mascot. At the time, Kruckman belonged to a group that was a precursor to IUP’s Native American Awareness Council—which Adams now chairs.

Phil and Sarah, who will move to Pittsburgh in retirement, said Kruckman shared their excitement about Adams as his replacement. “It’s really thrilling for us,” Sarah Neusius said. “It’s kind of like a legacy.”