In Memoriam

In Memoriam: Valene L. Smith

By Tim Wallace

It is with great sadness that we learn that Valene L. Smith has died. This very vivacious person helped to kickstart the field of the Anthropology of Tourism with her proposal to publish papers from a symposium held at the 1974 American Anthropological Association meetings in Mexico City that eventually appeared as part of her edited book, Hosts and Guests: The Anthropology of Tourism in 1977 (University of Pennsylvania Press).

She taught at Chico State University, California from 1967 to 1998 and founded its tourism curriculum and internship. She was instrumental in developing the Museum of Anthropology there, to which after her retirement she gifted over $4.5 million. The museum is now called the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology. In 2020 she was awarded the UNWTO Ulysses Prize for the Creation and Dissemination of Knowledge.

During the first years of this century, Melissa Stevens and myself, co-founders of the SFAA Tourism and Heritage Tourism TIG, had the great fortune to meet Valene at one of the SfAA meetings with the late SfAA Executive Director Tom May. Valene approached the SfAA to offer a major donation to fund a tourism poster competition which has become a staple of our TIG each year at the SFAA’s.  Several members of our TIG have been beneficiaries of this annual award. After that eventful meeting, Valene continued to attend many SFAA TIG meetings and present papers.

Valene L. Smith was born on February 14, 1926. Apparently, her birth on Valentine’s Day is the reason she was named Valene. She received a degree in geography from UCLA in 1946 and at age 20, began teaching at L.A. City College. She taught Geography for 18 years at City College and completed an MA at UCLA. During a sabbatical, she earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology in 15 months at the University of Utah. She began teaching at Chico State in 1967 and retired there as professor emerita in 1998, but she never stopped traveling, writing or promoting the study of tourism. She also held a pilot’s license to fly a Cessna and once owned a travel agency. Valene continued traveling to far reaches of the globe well into her 90’s.

12365404457?profile=RESIZE_710xOn behalf of the SfAA Tourism and Heritage TIG, we know that Valene’s presence both as a person, a colleague, and staunch supporter of the anthropology of tourism and heritage will be greatly missed.

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