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2012 News Releases

Beloved Longwood professor honored with naming of Archaeology Field School

September 25, 2012

Dr. James W. Jordan
Dr. James W. Jordan

Longwood University's archaeology field school now bears the name of one of the university's most beloved faculty members.

The naming of the James W. Jordan Archaeology Field School, approved Sept. 15 by the university's Board of Visitors, recognizes the legacy of the longtime professor of anthropology who founded the field school in 1980 and directed it for 17 years, has received countless teaching awards and has been an icon among Longwood students.

"Dr. Jordan is a legend at Longwood," said Dr. Brian Bates '92, who studied under Jordan and now chairs the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice Studies. "In his 34 years at Longwood, he has taught nearly 11,000 students in his various courses, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if he remembers each and every person's name-he is that good. Dr. Jordan embodies what we believe are the best attributes of Longwood. He is a scholar of the first order. His love of learning and the concomitant love of teaching that he exudes have impacted untold lives in ways that he could never imagine."

An aggressive campaign is under way by Jordan's friends, former students and colleagues to raise $500,000 to endow the field school, which would provide a perpetual operating fund. Some $200,000 has been raised toward that goal.

On June 2, 1980, nearly two years after joining the faculty, Jordan led the first group of Longwood students to the Anna's Ridge Site (named for his older daughter, then 2) in Cumberland State Forest for the first official excavation by the Archaeology Field School. Jordan directed the field school until 1997 when Bates took over.

"I wish that the Archaeology Field School could have been named for the approximately 2,100 students who have stuck a trowel in the ground since 1980," said Jordan. "Those 2,100 dirt-eaters have done the real work-have sweated in the heat and had ticks up their legs."

The field school program provides year-round opportunities for students to participate in ongoing research projects at various sites, including the island of Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and Longwood's Hull Springs Farm. The field school has excavated every summer since 1997 at the site of an American Indian village (occupied between about 950-1425 A.D.) within Staunton River Battlefield State Park in Charlotte County.

A native of New Stanton, Pa., who majored in economics as an undergraduate, Jordan became interested in what would become his life's work as a graduate student in sociology at the University of Connecticut. After frequently seeing students who "seemed to be having a good time," he asked them their major and was told they were archaeologists. As soon as he graduated with a master's in sociology, he re-enrolled and earned another master's in anthropology. He later picked up a Ph.D. in anthropology and taught at Georgia State University for two years before coming to Longwood to launch an anthropology program.

Since coming to Longwood, Jordan has carried out an extensive program of field research at prehistoric and historic archaeological sites in central Virginia and the Potomac River Valley, conducted a study of an English village, and visited and studied archaeological collections in Syria and the Kingdom of Jordan. He has taken Longwood students to England since 2005 to study prehistoric and medieval archaeological sites such as Stonehenge and Bath.

Jordan was selected the Virginia Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in 1995, was one of 11 faculty members throughout the state to receive an Outstanding Faculty Award from the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia in 1992 and has received numerous Longwood honors, including the Fuqua Excellence in Teaching Award five times and the Student-Faculty Recognition Award three times. He is a naturalist for Virginia State Parks, a technical adviser for the television program "Bones" and, as chief faculty marshal, is a familiar figure leading the procession and carrying the Longwood mace at academic ceremonies.

At the end of every archaeological project conducted by Jordan, he gathers the students and, while they're seated on a log, reads a passage from Black Elk Speaks, a famous 1932 book based on interviews with a Sioux medicine man. "There is a line in which Black Elk says, 'Let my people live once more,'" said Jordan. "This always becomes emotional; even guys will cry. We have 'let these people live once more.' We are touching things from the past. The only way to do that is in the field, by physical contact with the olden days."