Melissa J. Knauer Memorial Fund

Obituary: Melissa J. Knauer, 1953-1985

Department of Anthropology
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario M5S 1A1

Melissa J. Knauer, who had just completed her doctoral thesis at the University of Toronto Department of Anthropology, was killed in a vehicle accident while traveling to the Dobe area of northwestern Botswana on June 16,1985. She was born on December 19, 1953 and had earned a BA degree at the Pennsylvania State University in 1975. Before entering the graduate program at Toronto in 1976, she had spent a year as Research Technician at the Field Facility of the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center in Atlanta. She subsequently earned an MA at Toronto in 1977 and defended her dissertation there in October, 1984. While still a graduate student, she presented a number of papers at professional meetings and published several articles. She was a member of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, the American Anthropological Association, the Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology, the Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women, and the Human Biology Council. A scholarship fund entitled the Melissa J. Knauer Memorial Fund for Feminist Research in Anthropology has been set up at the University of Toronto to commemorate her many contributions to the affairs of the department during her years there.

Donate to the Melissa J. Knauer Memorial Fund for Feminist Research in Anthropology

Read the full obituary in the Canadian Journal of Anthropology

The following is from the Hart House Underwater Club Newsletter, University of Toronto, September 1985. It was written by Alison Griffith.

On June 16, 1985 Melissa Knauer was killed in a jeep accident in Botswana. She was a member of the Hart House Underwater Club having completed her training this past spring with the open water checkout in Cozumel, Mexico.

Melissa was an anthropologist trained in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Toronto. Her dissertation, which she defended in October 1984, was entitled Breast Feeding and the Resumption of Post Partum Fertility: A Study of Urban Canadian Women. At the time of her death, Melissa was the research officer for a new project in Botswana which was to document the changes in child care and family patterns among the !Kung tribes. An academic award has been established in her name. The Club has donated $75 to the fund. Those members wishing to contribute individually to the award are asked to send their donations to the Office of Private Donations, University of Toronto.

Melissa was a warm and intelligent woman who added immensely to the enjoyment of the Cozumel open water checkout week. While Mexican and Mayan culture were not her area of expertise, her knowledge of different cultural forms and cultural history meant that our experience of Mexico was broader than would otherwise have been possible. Melissa was a good diver who was calm in difficult diving situations. I remember the night dive at which everyone was a little nervous, it was the first night dive for many of us. The ordinary and expected reef of our daylight dives had become extraordinary and just a little spooky. During the dive the divemaster went into a very small cave and in order to get out again had to take off his tank and push it out ahead of him. Just after that Melissa tapped her buddy Steve Younkers on the arm and pointed to a tank that was floating by itself above her. As it turned out it was not Melissa’s attempt to emulate the antics of the divemaster but rather the result of her tank separating from the backpack. She calmly waited while Steve put the tank back in the backpack and then went on with the dive.

Melissa had taken her mask, fins and snorkel to Botswana with her. Botswana is landlocked but she had hoped to get a chance to dive in the Seychelles while she was working in Africa. Unfortunately she was killed before she had that opportunity. We will miss her laughter.