Robert VH Dover (PhD '95), que en paz descanse
I received word and now confirmation that my former student, longtime friend, and frequent scholarly collaborator, Robert VH Dover, experienced a fatal heart attack on December 14, 2018, in Medellín, Colombia. Bob initiated his graduate studies in the IU Folklore Institute in the mid-1980s, and I recall many wonderful moments from those early years of our acquaintance – in particular, I can see that smile and hear the gentle laugh registering the absurdity of things. Having done study abroad in South America, Bob gravitated toward Latin American topics. He became a star pupil in Francisco Tandioy’s Inga class, and defended in 1995 an outstanding doctoral thesis based on research in the Sibundoy Valley of Colombia, titled “Nucanchi Gente Pura: The ideology of Recuperación in the Inga Communities of Colombia's Sibundoy Valley.”During his time at IU, Bob joined with me and Katharine Seibold, then a graduate student in Anthropology at IU, to organize in 1988 a symposium on Andean cultures, resulting in the publication by Indiana University Press in 1992 of the influential collection, Andean Cosmologies through Time: Persistence and Emergence.
Bob left Indiana in 1991 to take on a lectureship in Native Studies at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, and remained there through 1996. In the fall of 1997 he took a tenure-track position in the Departamento de Antropología at the Universidad de Antioquia in Medellín, Colombia, one of that nation’s outstanding educational institutions. Bob found a viable niche there, obtaining tenure and pursuing research that initially drew on his work in the southwest of Colombia but increasingly turned to issues of public health and health delivery, both in Colombia and in South Africa. A stellar series of publications in this arena reveals a core feature of Bob’s personality, the pleasure he took in collaborative research and his effectiveness as a research partner.
In late September of 2018 I had a pleasant exchange of emails with Bob, prompted by my finding his excellent introductory essay to the 2006 reissue of a major resource in Colombian studies, Victor Daniel Bonilla’s Siervos de dios y amos de indios: El estado y la misión Capuchina en el Putumayo. Bob expressed that he was energized, but also exhausted, by a series of activities spanning the domains of research, teaching, administration, and grant-writing. He mentioned involvement in the lives of his two children, Hilary and Thomas, and generally seemed primed to tackle the next set of challenges awaiting him.
It is hard to believe that this vibrant and good-hearted man no longer walks the earth.
-John H. McDowell, Professor of Folklore, Indiana University