Sharlotte Neely a ‘Who’s Who’ at Northern and the rest of America

If you’ve ever wondered who’s who at Northern Kentucky University, your search stops here,: it’s Dr. Sharlotte Neely, professor of Anthropology.

Dr. Neely was recently inducted into the 2003 Who’s Who in America. This significant achievement is the latest in a long line of professional and academic awards in this remarkable woman’s career.

“I’m humbled to be included in Who’s Who in America. Several NKU professors have been included in Who’s Who over the years, and I am awed to be included in their number,” Neely said.

Who’s Who is a compilation of the biographies of prominent world figures. It is published yearly in print and on the web by Marquis Who’s Who. Each biography illustrates a person’s professional accomplishments.

Members are chosen based on leadership, educational accomplishments, significant publications and/or speeches, and community involvement, according to Marquis’ website.

Neely attributes this nomination to her book, Snowbird Cherokees, published in 1991 and recently produced as a documentary film.

The book describes the culture and history of the Snowbird Cherokee tribe of North Carolina. The community, with only 300 members, is “tucked away from all the tourism,” usually associated with the Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, according to Neely.

“Once I got to the reservation,” she said, “I knew I wanted to work in the traditionalist Snowbird community where most people still spoke the Cherokee language.”

Her area of expertise is Native Americans, particularly the Cherokee. She first visited the community as a University of North Carolina graduate student researching her thesis on Cherokee education. She lived with the tribe for one year and returns each year to visit the community.

However, her interest in the Cherokee began well before her college career. When she was a child, her parents took her on a camping trip to Smoky Mountain National Park, where they visited the Cherokee reservation in Cherokee, North Carolina.

“I was enthralled with the area,” Dr. Neely said.

Later, while a freshman in high school, she realized she could turn her interests in Native Americans into a career. She began studying anthropology, which she says is “just so interesting, you’d almost have to work at making it boring.”

According to Neely, “Anthropology is one of many disciplines that study people. But we’re unique in focusing on groups of people that other disciplines don’t study that much. We’re more likely to work with American Indians, or in Latin America or Asia, rather than Europe and mainstream America.”

Dr. Neely is a three-time distinguished recipient of the Who’s Who among American Teachers award in 1994, 1996 and 1998.

“The best thing about that award is that the nominations had to come from NKU students. It was based solely on my role as a classroom teacher,” Neely said.

In 1970 she received the Who’s Who among Students in American Universities and Colleges award for her efforts to prevent the Georgia State University Anthropology department from being closed.

The American Association of University Women named her Outstanding Young Woman of America in 1978. “I was surprised and honored to be nominated by the local Northern Kentucky chapter of the AAUW, mostly for my numerous talks in the community about my Cherokee research. AAUW puts a lot of value on continuing community education,” Neely said.

She has also received numerous awards from NKU faculty, alumni and student organizations for her teaching and leadership at the university.

Her NKU teaching career began while she was still a graduate student at UNC. Upon graduating, she was hired at NKU to teach anthropology. What was supposed to be a one-year position turned into a thirty-year teaching career.

In August she will celebrate 30 years as a professor at NKU. During this time, she was the coordinator of the Anthropology Department from 1992 to 2000. She was president of Anthropologists and Sociologists of Kentucky from 1979 to 1980. In 1994 she was named Outstanding Professor at NKU. Despite these numerous professional achievements, Dr. Neely believes the most important part of her career is teaching.

Neely said her favorite part of teaching is the interaction with students. “When somebody will ask a question that hasn’t been asked before and it really makes you step back and think. You’ll think, ‘I’ve been teaching this course for two decades and nobody has ever asked that question.’ It never gets old that way. It’s nice. I feel really lucky to be doing something every day that I love,” Neely said.

In 1970 Neely received her Bachelor’s of Arts in Anthropology at Georgia State University in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1971 she received her Master’s of Arts in Cultural Anthropology from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

And in 1976 she received her Ph.D. in Ethnology and Social Anthropology from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

In the future Neely hopes to publish anthropological science fiction novels and continue teaching full-time.