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'Hurst names 'bone lab' after Ted Rathbun

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mercyhurst University’s “bone lab,” a mainstay in the education of the university’s forensic anthropology students for well over a decade, is going formal. On Thursday, May 1, the Zurn Hall science lab will take the name of the late Ted Allen Rathbun, a pillar among forensic anthropologists worldwide and friend and mentor to Mercyhurst’s leading forensic anthropologists Dennis Dirkmaat, Ph.D. and Steven Symes, Ph.D.

The new Ted A. Rathbun Osteology Laboratory will be dedicated at 4 p.m. On hand for the occasion will be Rathbun’s widow, Babette, and Douglas Ubelaker, Ph.D., curator of Physical Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Anthropology.

Before his death in 2012, Rathbun had taught for 30 years at the University of South Carolina, where he was a distinguished professor emeritus. He was listed in Outstanding Men and Women in Science (1973), Outstanding Educators of America (1974), International Who's Who in Asian Studies, American Men (1978), and in Men and Women of Science, 14th Edition. At USC, he was named a Scudder Professor for excellence in teaching, mentoring & advising, and contributions beyond the university. He was a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and, in 2005, he received the prized T. Dale Stewart Award for outstanding service and contributions to the field. Mercyhurst’s Symes’ received the same award in 2008.

Like Dirkmaat, who directs the applied forensic science program at Mercyhurst, Rathbun was active in the Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team, particularly after 9/ll. At the time of his death, Rathbun was a consultant for the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command (JPAC), which recovers and identifies remains of military service people lost in battle.

Rathbun was a familiar name at Mercyhurst, serving as one of the reviewers for certification of its Masters of Anthropology program in 2004. Mercyhurst also acquired most of his personal library when he retired several years ago.

“I personally respected Ted as a forensic anthropologist because he did excellent work, never sought out the spotlight, and was always a steadying influence in our discipline,” Dirkmaat said. “My enduring memories of Ted will revolve around discussions (often heated) of whatever topic people were concerned or upset about at our annual AAFS meeting. Ted would let the discussion play out so that all opinions could be voiced, then stand up and, with a sentence or two, provide the level-headed voice of reason to summarize the problem and a reasonable solution. We could then move on to another topic.”

Those who wish to join the dedication proceedings should RSVP by April 22 to Kathi Staaf at 814-824-3119 or at