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Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work

Donna C. Roper

Donna C. Roper, 68, of Manhattan passed away August 15, 2015, from colon cancer. She was born in Oneonta, New York on June 20, 1947, the daughter of Norman E. and Laura (Deitz) Roper and older sister to Marilyn. Donna was a consummate professional archaeologist who became an authority on Native peoples and archaeology in the central Plains.

Donna followed a long family tradition with Hartwick College in Oneonta, NY, where she earned a B.A. in History with Departmental Honors in 1968. She developed her interest in archaeology during a Hartwick College experience in Veracruz, Mexico. In New York she participated in archaeological projects before pursuing graduate studies in Anthropology with an emphasis in archaeology. She earned her Master’s and Doctorate degrees, respectively, at Indiana University, Bloomington, in 1970 and the University of Missouri, Columbia, in 1975.

The foundation for Donna’s learning was set early. By the age of three, she was a fluent reader, a skill that served her well in school (promoted quickly from first to second grade) and in her later studies and profession. Reading was a pastime she enjoyed throughout her life, satisfying her unquenchable thirst for knowledge.

Her family instilled in Donna an appreciation of music. She was trained in cornet and trumpet starting in third grade and continuing through college. She attended summer music camp and sang in school and church choirs.

Donna enjoyed sports and outdoor activities. As a Girl Scout she attended Camp Minnetoska on Otsego Lake. During the winter she loved skiing and in college played lacrosse. In later years, Donna enjoyed astronomy, photography, and birding developing deep understanding and finely honed skills in these areas. This is exemplified through her activities with the Northern Flint Hills Audubon Society that provided the opportunity to master bird identification and behavior as well as photographic skills. She delighted in outings and lively exchanges with her friends in the NFHAS.

Donna was a dedicated and prolific archaeologist. She directed projects in Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and many other states. In the 1970s she held research positions with the University of Missouri’s American Archaeology Division and the Illinois State Museum. In 1980 she joined Gilbert/Commonwealth Inc. of Jackson, Michigan as Senior Archaeologist and Project Manager, becoming a partner with Commonwealth Cultural Resources Group in 1988.

Several projects for Commonwealth took Donna to Nebraska, where she developed a genuine love for the Great Plains. In 1991 she fulfilled her dream to live and work regularly in the region by moving to Manhattan, Kansas. She embraced the environment, the town, and Kansas State University, where she became an avid fan of KSU women’s basketball. She served as a Research Associate Professor with K-State’s Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work while also working as an independent researcher and consultant. More recently she added the position of adjunct research associate with the Archaeological Research Center at the University of Kansas.

Donna occasionally taught classes at KSU and KU and was an integral graduate committee member for nine Master’s and Doctoral students of archaeology. Her training and influence helped prepare a number of students for successful careers in archaeology.

Her curiosity, breadth of understanding, and keen mind stimulated not only students, but colleagues in the Plains, Midwest, and beyond. She presented research in two edited books, as well as book-length monographs and numerous professional journal articles, book chapters, and technical reports. She was active with various regional professional organizations for which she served in leadership roles. Donna regularly presented her research, caught up with colleagues, and vigorously debated ideas at professional meetings.

Donna loved to share her knowledge and learn from others through public venues. She was invited regularly to share her insights with various groups in Kansas and Nebraska and always elicited valuable discussions with others about the Native prehistory of this region. She co-led public archaeology projects through the Kansas Archaeological Training Program sponsored by the Kansas Anthropological Association and the Kansas Historical Society.

In 2015 Donna was presented with the Distinguished Service Award by the Plains Anthropological Society and the W. Duncan Strong Memorial Award of the Nebraska Association of Professional Archaeologists. Through these Donna joined a select group of renowned recipients marking exemplary contributions to her profession.

Donna was preceded in death by her father in 1986, her mother in 2009, and her companion dogs, Martin and Bonnie. She leaves behind her dog Bailey. Donna’s ashes will be spread at a later date at one of her favorite places in southern Nebraska.

A memorial fund has been established through GoFundMe (https://www.gofundme.com/ea4d4mtc) to help pay for medical expense with the remainder to establish a regional archaeology research fund.