Ali Pomponio - Share
your memories, reflections of Ali Pomponio
While brief, I am glad I got a chance to work with her. She really "busted balls" and I admired it. I will never forget her advice to me when I became chair: "squeaky wheels do get oiled." So Ali!
One of the bright lights of St. Lawrence has gone out. We will miss you, Ali Pomponio: your warmth, your flash, your color, your keen edge, your long and sometimes rambling interventions on the faculty floor ... your voice, and your courage.
Ali's office was near mine, so I saw her frequently during the semester. She was always friendly and cheerful, and I appreciated her sense of humor as well as her teaching advice and her conviction that professors must push students to do their best work and not settle for anything less. I miss seeing you on the second floor of Piskor, Ali!
When I think of Ali the phrase "force of nature" comes to mind because she was so principled and focused as well as lively and fun loving. She was such a rare combination. I remember one day she explained how she used to sell knives for a living. At the time, I thought...how cool...selling knives and a linguist! Only Ali!!
I admired how much she loved her family. When she spoke of Gregory it was pure love and pride and when she talked about Dick's scholarship it was a beautiful mix of respect, care and love.
I was at a dinner party in Australia once and I mentioned off the cuff that I worked at SLU. A man I had only just met said, "I know someone you work with!" He went on to talk about how he did fieldwork with Ali many years ago. The words he used to describe her were "brilliant," "a firecracker" and "unstoppable"...that pretty much sums it up.
Her work on gender and sexuality issues here at St. Lawrence opened doors in ways that should not be underestimated. Ali cared deeply about the issue of sexual assault and worked tirelessly on the issue of gender equality.
St. Lawrence will not be the same without her.
Her passion and commitment to St. Lawrence was second to none. We truly lost a pillar in our community. Thank you for helping to make St. Lawrence a better place for generations to come.
Ali always spoke first (A is in anthropology) at the Moving Up day celebrations. She often took quite a large block of time when announcing her department's awards having to explain the history of her discipline so that we could understand why these student awards were so important. After a few years, amidst some occasional groans from the audience of "here we go again," I realized a valuable lesson. Here was someone who saw herself as a living exemplar of one of the key scholarly traditions in the academy, someone who felt honored, but also deeply responsible for knowledge being transmitted, cherished, and transcended by her students who came to her for learning and remain afterward, her academic progeny exemplifying in their own unique ways the high academic standards and rich spirit on inquiry that Ali embodied. So I learned a lot more than the history of anthropology in her orations. I will deeply miss her as a colleague, a friend, and someone who loved this sc hool and her teaching in a way that was inspiring for me to behold. She was a great person.
I mostly knew Ali through her son, Greg, and admired her strong personality, intellect, and great sense of humor. She was also a wonderful mother and she and Dick raised a beautiful son who has these same gifts. I think her spirit will carry on in Greg's life as as he seeks and finds his place in this world. But she will be sorely missed.
Ali was a wonderful teacher and scholar and a great presence on this campus. Along with so many students and colleagues whose lives she touched, I am grateful to have known her. St. Lawrence will never be the same without her but is so much richer for her time here.
Roseline and I are very saddened by Ali's passing. What a generous person! Our thoughts and prayers are with Dick and Gregory at this very difficult time.
The occasions for a long and loving friendship are so very few and oh, so rare. Ali took on cancer as she did everything else. Ever the scholar, she went first to books, researching and reading everything available on that nasty brain tumor. Ali was a fighter, and she needed to know exactly what she was taking on. Despite Ali's sadness, she sought no pity, made no complaints, and continued her norm for as long as her body allowed. I'm grateful for Ali's life; the wonderful experiences we shared,and the memories of great times, loud laughter and big fights. I'll miss my friend Ali for as long as I live. I count myself fortunate indeed to have known and loved her, and even more fortunate that she loved me.
Warm, funny, smart, passionate...so many words come to mind when I think of Ali, as I do often. I'm proud to say she was my friend and I know that I will miss her, as will we all. Dick and Gregory, I'm so very sorry for your loss. I loved her.
Professor Pomponio encouraged me in so many ways and fostered my love of anthropology, history and people. She taught me that I should never be complacent with traditional roles and that just because it hadn't been done doesn't mean that it shouldn't be done. She also pushed me to write my best work and make a difference in life. Although I don't currently have a career in history, the love of understanding and learning is something that I still use today. I utilize many of the skills learned in her classes to ensure that I value history and tradition. I have begun to revist my genealogy and I truly believe that much of my love of history and anthropology came from the classes that I took with her. I wish that I had taken the time to let her know how much she meant to me and that I have kept her books with me as a reminder to keep learning and growing. We'll miss you, Prof. Pomponio
Bridget Donahue Cooley '98
Ali is a delight and an inspiration. She was one of the first women Full Professors here, a ground-breaker in many ways. She was/is the supreme professional in all ways, and the epitome of a teacher, and of a friend.
But what I will really miss is her laugh and her amazing personality.
Her office is across from mine, and every morning we retired the lifetime attire award, as she swept in impeccably groomed, in stunning outfits and astonishing jewelry.
Even during her illness she was confident, upbeat, and determined.
It is hard to believe that I will never again hear her “Patrice” from across the hall as she dealt with (yet another) computer meltdown, and my jumping up to help.
We have lost a light.
Ali's contributions to St. Lawrence and to the lives of her students, friends, colleagues and family will assure her enduring place in our hearts. Others describe her so well, and I thank you all for keeping Ali alive among us.
What a great loss to our community. While I did not know Ali personally, I know many of her former students who loved her passion and devotion to her discipline and to teaching. My sympathy and prayers go out to her family during this time of incredible loss.
Such sad news. Such loss to the St. Lawrence University community. My condolences to her family, coworkers and students.
When I was hired at SLU, the search committee contained 15 people (!), a special group of dynamic and committed people tasked with overseeing the creation of Global Studies here. Ali, a member of that group, made an instant impression on me for all of the reasons that others have so beautifully articulated in their remembrances. I always looked up to her as a model of how to combine fearlessness, warmth, truth-telling, and a deep dedication to the intellectual life. Our community has lost a one-of-a-kind trailblazer in Ali. I'll miss her terribly.
I encountered Dr. Pomponio outside of the classroom as an adviser for an event being hosted by the Islamic Culture Club my sophomore year. The event was called "Book Drive for Malawai." She was so helpful, energetic and excited about our initiative. Not only did she contribute by donating tons of books towards the cause but also took it upon herself to let people in her personal network know about our project. I remember having meetings with her and the wonderful insights she provided about how to be successful in reaching our goal of collecting over 1,000 books to build a local library in Malawi. She spoke to me and other members commending our dedication and we were so grateful in having her part of the team. She was so open and a warm-hearted person. Even after the book drive event finished, we still kept in touch and I would visit her office to chat. I will miss her dearly. I send my warmest condolences to her family.
Thahitun Mariam '12
Dr. Pomponio's "Language and the Human Experience" class was among my very favorites at St. Lawrence. She challenged and inspired. Together, we sang and laughed in the classroom, and learned so very much. I still tell others about this amazing classroom experience, and will continue to do so for years to come. We have lost a great teacher, leader, and an amazing personality.
She will be greatly missed.
Kim Reardon '07
Dr. Pomponio was the real deal. What a loss. My condolences to her friends, family, and the whole SLU community. She had very high standards for her students, and would accept nothing but the very best work. That's what education is all about, and what we should all be striving towards as students, educators, scholars, parents, and community members.
Nicole Dunham '07
I loved Ali's passion for life and conviction in her beliefs. Her love and commitment to her students, St. Lawrence, and education were apparent to all. Her humor and flare made all our days brighter. She will be greatly missed, and my heart goes out to Dick and Gregory.
Patti Frazer Lock
Ali's passion and commitment to her work were extraordinary. She demanded the best from her students and colleagues usually received it along with their respect and, in many case, sincere affection. Working with her on a range of projects from African Studies to addressing sexual assault on campus, I found Ali always held to high standards and brooked no b.s. She was also extremely warm and kind when someone faced a personal loss. RIP, Ali Pomponio.
Dr. Pomponio taught me what it meant to write more with less. Wasn't it Blaise Pascal who once said, "I would have written a shorter letter, but I'd did not have the time."?
Dr. Pomponio was an amazing mind; she had so much left of it to share with the world. I only had one class with her in my time at slu, but I told every other student I knew to take that class...
And I have gone on to reference her teachings in my professional career now.
Her classes were not easy; she had the highest expectations of her students.... She knew what we were really capable of.
Her memory - and her teachings - will live on in my mind, heart and soul for the rest of my life.
May you rest in peace, Dr. Pomponio.
Tiffany Pena '07
Although we didn't always see eye to eye on everything, you always pushed me to do my best. You simply wouldn't except anything less. For this I deeply appreciate everything you did for me as a student, but more so in helping me build character.
Will Calder '11
Dr. Pomponio was the reason I became an Anthropology major. She was an inspiration and always challenged me to higher level thinking. I appreciate and will always fondly remember her.
Liz Comiskey-Peirce '92
Mi mancherai tanto, amica mia ... i tuoi consigli e la tua saggezza saranno sempre con me ... Ti voglio bene ...
Dr. Pomponio was truly sensational. Her passion for anthropology made me major in it, and her tough grading standards made me fear it. Dr. Pomponio pushed me further and harder than any other professor I have ever had. She was made of tough stuff. I feel very privileged to have been her student and to have been able to do an independent project with her last year. Meeting one-on-one with her every week really made me see her for more than the strict, but awesome professor that she was. She was kind, gentle, funny, loving, caring, and sarcastic. In the end, I came to think of her as an “aunty” (as we say in the pacific) as well. I couldn’t stop myself from bursting into tears today when I heard the news. My thoughts are with Dr. Perry and Gregory, who we heard SO much about in our SYE class last year. Rest in peace, Dr. P. Me ke aloha.
Chelsea McKenzie '11
You will always inspire me.
I only had her for one class, LHE, and it was both one of my favorite and one of my toughest classes. SLU won't be the same without her.
Alyssa Pirinelli '10
I am so saddened to hear of Dr. Pomponio’s passing. A week does not go by that I don’t recall one of her lessons. I constantly find examples in my life of Mary Douglas’ ‘dirt is matter out of place’ concept, which was so adeptly illustrated in class one day. Dr. P asked a student to take a sip of water and then spit it back into their water bottle. When she asked the student to take another sip from the bottle, we all internally cringed and to everyone’s surprise, the student drank again from the now tainted water. The concept has been permanently cemented in my mind ever since. What is dirt? It is matter out of place. It’s not the saliva in your mouth, but it is definitely saliva in your water! She was truly skilled at isolating an abstract idea and bringing it into focus with a clever demonstration.
Dr. Pomponio was the first teacher I remember who recommended with enthusiasm that we should consult the reference librarian at ODY. I had many teachers over the years who loved libraries and encouraged us to improve our research skills, but Dr. P was the first to introduce the concept that a researcher could use the librarian as a resource, not just the books. Up until then, no one had bothered to impress on me that one could build professional relationships by asking for help and advice. I have since gone on to earn a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science and it was Dr. P who wrote my recommendation for grad school.
I could go on and on recounting the lessons she taught me. I admired, respected, and often feared her. Not to sound trite, but she was one in a million. Who else but an anthropologist could have lived the life she did – with a keen eye for human behavior and communication and an appreciation for noticing why we do the things we do: whether in Papua New Guinea, Italy, Kenya, or the North Country.
My sincere condolences go to Dr. Perry, Gregory, and all of her family and friends. Ali Pomponio was an amazing person, and I am lucky to have known her.
Jen Bunton '04
Ali was my first ever anth professor and mentor. She got me into anthropology because she needed bodies to fill her Oceania course probably one of the first years she was there. It was great and I was hooked...it was so fun to be part of the major at the time -- we were the third year the major was awarded. Her classes were always great and I was temporarily bereft my senior year when she took a sabbatical until I convinced Dick to chair my honor's thesis. I've just attended our 25th reunion and we were reminiscing about our time there and the professors and Ali definitely left an impression on my friends too, even though they weren't anthro majors. I've been so impressed with how the major has grown and with Ali's career. She definitely will be missed.
Lynne Greabell '87
I'm so saddened to hear about the passing of Dr. P. She was one of the best professors that I've had in my academic career and was one of the major reasons I decided to pursue Anthropology as a major. She was also my advisor while I was at SLU and she was a wonderful and inspiring individual. I used to love hearing about her travels around the world.
Dr. P was also the reason why I decided to go to Kenya to study abroad during the spring semester of 2006.
She persuaded me to go there stating that it was the perfect place for me. Boy was she right! Going to Kenya ended up literally changing my life so thank you so much Dr. P for pushing me to go.
I'll always remember you Dr. P. May you rest in peace now. My prayers are with Dr. Perry, Greg, and the rest of your family.
Laura Clarke '07
Ali: your humor, your wonderful heart, your laughter. How they will be missed by everyone whose lives you touched. Remember swimming together in hotel pools at various conferences? Remember the giggles we shared in Honolulu when you came to visit while I was in residence there? I miss you very much.
Professor of Cultural Anthropology
University of Amsterdam
I could write a book about how Ali has influenced my life, but let me just share some of my favorite memories - maybe when my tears dry, I'll be able to share more.
I first met Ali not as a teacher, but as my boss. She had recruited me to work on her encyclopedic dictionary of the Mandok dialect of Mutu, a dying language in the Siassi Islands of Papua New Guinea. As a result, I heard many, many tales about Mandok, such as the earthquake that shook her bamboo house and nearly sent her crashign to the ground or the time she went on a trip and started asking questions only to be whalloped in the arm and told to shut up because there were dangerous spirits about.
In later years, Ali would take me aside and talk about my honors thesis research for hours over coffee, we'd go to lunch and chat about the dictionary, or we'd just laugh about life. She advised me on graduate school and gave me many of the skills I needed to get there. She pushed me to go further than I ever thought possible, and helped me up when I fell down along the way. She was my mentor, my light, my driving force, and my friend. I sorely miss her, and my heart goes out to Dick and Gregory. St. Lawrence has lost one of its greatest.
Heather Christie '11
While writing these comments I'm still registering shock over the news of Ali's passing. My deepest sympathy to her family and closest friends.
I hope that all of the comments offered on this page will offer Dick and Greg some consolation. Certainly, they are a measure of how deeply Ali impressed all of us. She possessed wonderful traits in such depth and quantity: so much positive energy, wit and intelligence, such a pragmatic and productive approach to work and life, and such courage in putting forward her ideas and opinions.
She was such an important presence on campus: I will miss her, but I am also very grateful to have worked with her.
Ali was one of the first faculty I came to know as a colleague when I joined SLU in 2000. We worked through a challenging project together -- along with her Piskor peers. She taught me a lot about how the place worked and how to get the work done. I'll always be grateful. Our paths didn't cross often after that project but when they did it was always with genuine warmth and mutual respect. Her powerful presence will be so deeply missed across the community.
Ali was an amazing teacher, scholar, and friend. What a loss to the whole community. My deepest condolences to Dick and Gregory. I have very fond memories of Italian dinners with her family and Italian table at lunch on Fridays, which won't be the same without her. Ali, ci mancerai ma penseremo al tuo spirito allegro.
Ali was an original. I have missed seeing her in Piskor the last while and find it hard to believe that I won't catch her in the hall again for unexpected conversations! She was a mentor for both students and faculty and encouraged me to stay true to my convictions. I admired her unwavering confidence and deep passion.
Dr. Pomponio was one of the primary forces in my choice to study anthropology. My first class with her (Language and Human Experience) was without a doubt the most challenging class I have taken at SLU. I would leave every lesson with my blood boiling about something. She pushed me to be a better student and a more conscientious person. I can still remember her song about the supralaryngeal vocal tract, and staying up late studying for her exams. I was always desperate to prove myself and to rise to meet her high expectations. I will never forget her passion for knowledge, and I hope to someday make her proud.
Holly Hunold '13
We all knew this moment would be coming very soon, yet now that it is here, how difficult it is to accept! Yes, Ali you were passionate about your teaching, your students and your research. You were devoted to St. Lawrence but at the same time you had very distinct ideas of how to make it an even better institution. We shared many of these ideas, but you, Ali, were the one who had the courage to go public with them. Not for a single moment did I ever see you hesitate when a conflict arose between political expedience and your well-thought-out personal convictions. I will miss you Ali, your presence on campus -- your flamboyance, your voice, your sense of humor, but perhaps most of all your courage and undeniable sense of integrity.
I will miss Ali. She was an extraordinary teacher and colleague.
Dr. Pomponio's "Language and Human Experience" was my very first class at SLU and my very first exposure to the field of anthropology. I was hooked from the first session. Dr. P brought to all of her classes a zest not only for the subject matter at hand but also for the discipline of anthropology more generally. It was impossible to walk out of her classroom without the feeling that you had learned something of great value.
Outside of class, I had the privilege of working as Dr. P's research assistant and accompanied her to Papua New Guinea to do further research for her dictionary project. There, I learned that the only thing more fierce than her piercing intellect was her love for the Mandok people, with whom and for whom she worked so hard. Whether eliciting the names of canoe parts from her "informants" or sharing with them a cup of her high-test, morning coffee, joyous, affection-filled laughter was never far off.
As many have said already, it is a rare week that goes by without my recalling one of Dr. P's many anecdotes or kernels of wisdom. She was an amazing mentor who gave much of herself to her students. I will miss her greatly. My thoughts are with Dr. Perry and Gregory during this difficult time.
Thomas Hathaway '06
For Ali -
Puro e disposto a salire a le stele.
Nel suo profondo vidi che s’interna,
legato con amore in un volume,
ciò che per l’universo si squaderna.
You thrust upon me the power of oral and written expression. Although my stomach ached when about to speak in class and I dreaded the return of my papers (covered in your pen's ink), your sturdy impression will never fade. You are the sole inspiration for my career path; you passed on to me your passion for language and culture. Thank you most sincerely for all you have given me as a professor, a mentor, and a role model. Your voice remains active in my head and your ever strong presence in my life shall never disappear. You are the strongest person I have ever met.
Laurel Lovelett '13
Professor's Pet Peeves was Dr. Pomponio's line in my 2006 FYP Romer college. Her wisdom has stuck to me through this day. God bless you Dr. Pomponio.
Maina Peterson '12
Ali and I began working together in the late ‘70s in PNG. Our research programs overlapped a great deal and we found many points of collaboration. We remained in close contact over all these years and she invited me to give a talk at St. Lawrence so I had a chance to see her on her home turf, to meet Dick & Grego and, stay in their home. We would often rendezvous at AAA and I shared in their delight with Grego as baby and child. From the outset I recognized that Ali was unique as a person but especially as an academic. We tend to have fragile egos, perhaps because we are subject to so much critical scrutiny from peers and students. But Ali was immune from all that. She had such depth of character, was so self-effacing and had such a great sense of humor that she seemed to rise easily above difficulties and setbacks. Or, at least she talked a good game. I deeply appreciated her friendship, her company and her counsel. All of us have lost a dear friend but, for me, it’s as if a point on my moral compass has disappeared.
David F. Lancy
Professor of Anthropology
Utah State University