Dr. Sydel Silverman Wolf, president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research from 1987-1999, wife of the late Denver artist Mel Silverman and aunt of Craig Silverman, passed away March 25, 2019. She was 85.
The distinguished anthropologist, ethnographer and historian (Sydel Silverman was her professional name) led the Puerto Rico Project in the late 1940s that resulted in her seminal book, Totems and Teachers.
Her presidency of the Wenner-Gren Foundation coincided with the postmodern turn of the 1980s, which questioned the authority of science. A tireless advocate, she championed anthropology and fought for its inclusion on college campuses throughout her life.
Dr. Silverman was the youngest of seven siblings born to Josef and Leah Finfer in Chicago. Her father was a rabbi and scholar, and she grew up surrounded by Jewish culture and Yiddish humor.
In 1945, she appeared as a radio “Quiz Kid.”
Dr. Silverman earned an MA in human development at the University of Chicago and a PhD in anthropology at Columbia University.
Her teaching career began at Queens College of the City University of York, where she chaired the anthropology department and later became executive officer of the doctorate program.
Following her marriage to Mel Silverman, the couple lived in Montecastello di Vibio in Umbria, where he painted local artisans and she studied landlord-peasant and town-country relationships. Mr. Silverman passed away in 1966.
She married Dr. Eric R. Wolf, a renowned anthropologist at the University of Michigan, in 1972. He passed away in 1999.
“Sydel Silverman will be remembered for her extraordinary wit, her intellectual brilliance and for what she has accomplished as an anthropologist and for anthropology,” her colleagues said.
Dr. Sydel Silverman Wolf is survived by her daughters Eve (Gene Scaperotta) Silverman of Wilton, Conn., and Julie Silverman Yorn of Los Angeles; stepson Daniel Wolf, also of Los Angeles; grandchildren Alexander and Elizabeth Scaperotta, Samantha Yorn and Nathaniel and Jennifer Wolf; and great-grandchildren Matias and Lucia Wolf.
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