Longtime anthropology professor McPherron dies at 91

Alan Locke McPherron, who spent his entire career in the Department of Anthropology in the Dietrich School of Arts & Sciences, died April 16, 2020, at 91.

Born March 3, 1929, in Chicago, McPherron earned his bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Chicago in 1950, then was drafted into the Army in 1955, working as a radio operator in Hanau, Germany through 1957. 

He married his first wife, Stase, that year, and soon received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Michigan.

His Pitt career included many summers overseas working on archaeological sites, mainly in Kragujevac, Serbia, and Sardinia, Italy.

“Alan was one of the first colleagues I met upon joining the department in 1986,” recalls Robert M. Hayden, who today has joint appointments in law and public & international affairs and is also faculty in the University Center for International Studies. “He had surprised me when I interviewed by striking up a conversation in very good Serbo-Croatian” — a language Hayden also knew from his work in what was then Yugoslavia.

“Being an assistant professor in an American department is never easy, but Alan provided me with a sympathetic ear … When Yugoslavia went into war he stopped speaking the language — I think he felt the tragedy too closely.”

Returning two years ago to archaeological sites where McPherron worked, Hayden says, he found individuals who still “had very good memories” of their collaboration with McPherron, who continued to do academic research after his retirement in 2000.

He is survived by his second wife, Beth Prinz, children Kate, Patrick and Jesse, and grandchild Jasper.

— Marty Levine