Professor bids farewell

When the spring semester begins to wind down, many of us get restless. We may feel as if we have been at school for too many years and wait impatiently for the day when we can throw our hats in the air and bolt out the door for good.

That day has come for Dr. James Hopgood, after 30 years as a professor at Northern Kentucky University.

Dr. Hopgood, who began his teaching career at NKU in 1973, will retire at the end of this semester after a long and distinguished career.

“Following a student through several years of teaching…and seeing them do well afterwards, I’d say that’s probably the most satisfying part of [teaching],” said Hopgood.

His area of proficiency is cultural anthropology, defined by the NKU Anthropology brochure as “the study of the great varieties of societies and cultures in the world today.”

Hopgood is a professor of Anthropology at NKU and has been director of NKU’s Museum of Anthropology since its opening in 1976.

“I came into anthropology through archaeology,” he said. “That was my first interest, which occurred when I was in high school. I got interested in artifacts, Native American remains, Indian mounds, that kind of stuff… and eventually I decided to major in anthropology at the University of Missouri.”

Hopgood is a former head of the Department of Anthropology at NKU and has been named to the Who’s Who in America nearly every year since 1992. The Who’s Who in America commemorates the achievements of outstanding American professionals.

Fellow Anthropology professor Dr. Sharlotte Neely has worked with Dr. Hopgood since 1974.

“He has probably filled more roles than anyone else in the department – teacher, researcher, writer, program coordinator, department chair and museum director,” Neely said.

Hopgood’s areas of expertise are cultural theory, religion and the regions of Latin America and Japan. He received his masters in Anthropology, with an emphasis in Archaeology, from the University of Missouri-Columbia in 1969. He received his PhD from the University of Kansas in 1976.

He spent a year in 1971 doing fieldwork in Mexico with the Mastizos, a Mexican, ethnic group of mixed Spanish and Indian heritage. He studied their settlement and how they adapted from rural to city life, and chronicled his findings in his 1979 book, “Settlers of Bajavista.” He continues to study the Mastizos and visits the settlement often.

“He tells great fieldwork stories that make you feel like you’re hearing a tale Indiana Jones might tell,”” Neely said.

Hopgood is also a former president of the Central States Anthropological Society and current editor of the CSAS Bulletin. Hopgood said the group, which is composed of students and professors, is a section of the American Anthropological Society. Members give presentations and demonstrations at annual meetings of the society’s 250-300 members. He has been a member since the 1970s.

Neely added, “He is incredibly supportive of the goals of faculty, staff, alumni and students. Jim is a good friend who will support and encourage you, but he also is not afraid to tell you when you’re wrong about something.”

Hopgood’s post-retirement plans include finishing several books that are in progress and doing more fieldwork in Mexico. His retirement dinner will be held on May 1.