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Willis Eldridge Sibley ’51

March 13, 2022, in Shady Side, Maryland.

Will arrived at Reed just two years after the conclusion of World War II. A 17-year-old with no military experience, he found himself studying alongside many veterans. In an interview for Reed’s oral history project, Will said these young men (and some women) had a no-nonsense approach to school and life that forced him to grow up quickly.

From a young age, Will thought he would study engineering. But the curriculum at Reed ignited fresh curiosities. His freshman adviser, Prof. Raymond Ellickson [physics 194648], noticed that Will seemed more interested in the nature of human activity than the machines they operated. Will switched to economics and received a grant to write his thesis, “Possibilities of Expansion of the Aluminum Fabrication Industry in the Pacific Northwest,” with advising from Prof. Arthus Leigh [economics 1945-1988], after traveling around the region visiting aluminum fabricators. Will also worked as the driver of the bus that went up to the Mount Hood ski cabin. Reed had recently acquired this old bus, recently retired from carrying shipyard workers from Portland to Vancouver, Washington. Will had the honor of driving it on its very last voyage, when it couldn’t make it up the hill just outside of campus.

After graduating from Reed with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Will shifted his focus again to earn a master’s and a doctorate in anthropology, both from the University of Chicago. He taught anthropology at universities in Utah, Washington, the Philippines, and Ohio. Throughout his career he was an energetic supporter of applying and practicing anthropology within organizations, and a tireless volunteer. In 1994, he coedited (with Tomoko Hamada) the book Anthropological Perspectives on Organizational Culture.

Will held on to his interest in engineering by remaining what he called a “tinkerer” throughout his life; he’d always been a sailor, and in retirement, he took up repairing sailboats. He and his first wife, Barbara, sailed their boat down the St. Lawrence Seaway, down the Intercoastal Waterway, and into the Chesapeake Bay to their new home in Shady Side. Will subsequently opened the highly successful Sibley Marine Services.

His colleagues at the Society for Applied Anthropology, of which he was a longtime and active member, say they will remember Will for his kindness and thoughtful nature. He was sincerely interested in learning about people and their lives.

After his first wife died of cancer, Will remarried. He is survived by his wife of 20 years, Marjorie Hegge, and three children.

Appeared in Reed magazine: Fall 2023

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