Leslie C. Shaw, 57: A lasting legacy

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BRUNSWICK — Leslie C. Shaw, 57, died Aug. 29 from complications following surgery at Maine Medical Center in Portland. Born on July 8, 1955, in Washington, D.C., she was the daughter of John and Ann Shaw.

Shaw grew up in Bethesda, Md., and developed a lifelong interest in archaeology and anthropology while she was an undergraduate student at the University of Maine. She earned a master’s degree in anthropology at the University of Wyoming in 1980, and a doctorate in anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1991.

Over the course of her career, she developed expertise in every part of the world in which she worked – from the forests and coastlines of Maine to the high plains of Wyoming, from the isolation of Easter Island in the Pacific to the urban landscapes of Boston and Salem, and to the jungles and savannas of the Maya Lowlands of Central America.

A highly-regarded researcher and colleague, she published numerous articles in scholarly journals on these areas, was the author of nearly 50 technical reports  and delivered dozens of professional papers at national and international conferences.

She began her teaching career at the Harvard University Summer School, and held positions at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, the University of Massachusetts at Boston, and the University of Southern Maine. She was a fellow at the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute at Radcliffe College in 1993-94, and also was an archaeologist with the National Park Service. Since 1998 she had been a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Bowdoin College, where she was a valued teacher and mentor.

In 2008, she was named the liaison for Native American affairs in the president’s office at Bowdoin. In that capacity she worked closely with leaders, educators and students from the Wabanaki confederation and with her counterparts at Colby and Bates colleges. Each spring she led a team of Bowdoin students and faculty to tribal and community schools, where they led enrichment programs to encourage students to consider college as a goal.

For the past four years, Shaw organized the Wabanaki Arts Festival, which brought artists, drum groups and dancers to the Bowdoin campus. She was an advisor to the college’s Native American Student Organization, and was a passionate advocate for broadening educational opportunities for Native American students.

Shaw was a member of the Society for American Archaeology and of the Board of the Maine Archaeological Society for many years. She edited The Maine Archaeological Society Bulletin, developed the society’s website, coordinated Maine Archaeological Awareness Month, and worked to expand the understanding of Maine’s archaeological heritage in public school curricula. She was a member of the board and a past president of the Pejepscot Historical Society in Brunswick, and a member of the Town and College Club.

She met her husband, John Cross, in the doctoral program in anthropology at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. They were married in 1986.

She is survived by her husband; two beloved daughters Lauren T. Cross and Audrey L. Cross; her parents, John and Ann Shaw, of Salem, Mass.; two sisters Julie Shaw Lutts, of Salem, Mass., and Jennifer L. Shaw, of Belmont, Mass.; two brothers Mark C. Shaw, of Boyds, Md., and John H. Shaw, of Manchester, Mass.; an aunt, Polly Jettinghoff, of Newcastle; and many nieces, nephews and cousins.

A memorial service was held Sept. 8 at the Bowdoin College Chapel. Gifts in Shaw’s memory may be made to the Matilda and John Riley Fund for Sociology and Anthropology, 4100 College Station, Brunswick, ME 04011; the Pejepscot Historical Society, 159 Maine St., Brunswick, ME 04011; or to the charity of your choice. Arrangements are under the direction and care of Brackett Funeral Home in Brunswick.