Tribute by Theresa Ammirati



This tribute was delivered by Theresa Ammirati, Dean of Studies and the Freshman Year, at the Connecticut College faculty meeting on March 7, 2007.

The facts of Harold Juli's life and career give only a hint of the man he was. His passion for his family, Judaism and his work—as a researcher, but even more important, as a teacher—animated all that he did, and to know him, to be graced by his intelligence, wit and love, was truly a blessing. Because this is a moment to celebrate Harold's professional life, I will not, unfortunately, spend much time on his deep and loving relationship with his family, friends, and fellow congregants at Temple Beth-El, where he would have served as President this year. But to know Harold well, it is important to acknowledge that his life outside the College was as rich and as full as his life within it, and I am personally grateful for the many memories of long dinners with him and Harriet filled with laughter and stories—only some of which can be repeated in polite company.

Born in 1947, the son of Holocaust survivors, Harold grew up in Queens, New York, along with his brother Herb, who was his friend as well as his brother. He attended Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan and graduated from Queens College, part of City University of New York. He received both his graduate degrees from Brown University--his Master's in 1972 and Doctorate in 1978, having come to Connecticut College in 1974, as an instructor. Prior to coming to Conn, he had spent the previous three years in a National Science Foundation Graduate Traineeship in Anthropology with one year as a visiting instructor at Brandeis University.

His 33-year career at the College—a career too short—is marked not only by his work as a teacher and scholar, about which I'll say more in a few moments, but also by his service. Not only was he Associate Dean of the Faculty from 1987 to 1990, but he also served on or chaired almost every important committee at the College, including the Academic and Administrative Procedures Committee, the Advisory Committee to the President on Tenure, Promotions, and Reappointments, the Committee on Academic Standing, the PPBC, the Student Designed Interdisciplinary Majors and Minors Committee, the Watson Fellowship Committee, and the Ad Hoc Committee on Writing Across the Curriculum. He was a member of the original American Studies Committee that helped reestablish the American Studies Major, the Museum Studies Committee, and the Architectural Studies Committee. In addition, he served on numerous faculty and administration search committees.

His service extended off-campus as well. In 1992 he was made a Fellow of the American Anthropological Association and he served for many years as the Vice-Chairman of the Connecticut Historical Commission. He served as a consultant to a variety of organizations, including the Fairbanks Homestead Preservation Program, the Town of Old Saybrook, and the Governor Samuel Huntington Trust, and also found time to serve as a mentor at Winthrop Elementary School for second- and third-graders. He was a museum exhibit consultant at the Old State House Museum in Hartford and the Lyman Allyn, right here on our campus. He was the recipient of numerous grants, including those from the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation and the Connecticut Humanities Council. One of the grants that pleased him most, I imagine, was the one he received from the Strategic Initiatives Program at the College that allowed him to develop an Archaeology Laboratory here on campus. In the week before his death, as he was dictating thank-you notes to grantors who had supported his research, notes to fellow researchers at other institutions, and—not surprisingly, given Harold's character—attending to the comfort of his hospital visitors, he was also adamantly stressing the worth of that lab, and urging its continued existence. I am certain no one would begrudge him the pride he took in it as he pointed out that it could be favorably compared to such labs at larger colleges and even those serving graduate students.

As part of his scholarly pursuits, Harold's research included numerous digs. While in graduate school, these digs took him to Israel, Peru and Alaska, as well as, more locally, New York State and Rhode Island, and although his dissertation, Ancient Herders of the Negev: A Study in Pastoral Archaeology , arose out of his interest in the Middle East, he soon focused on the archaeology of New England, and his many publications and conference presentations include papers on the Pequots, Old Saybrook, and Woodland Archaeology in Connecticut. He served as a visiting Professor at La Universidad de las Americas in Mexico and also did field work in Mexico both as the director of the 2002 SATA Mexico program as well as during several summers there. During Spring Break in 2004 he led a TRIP program with students from his Human Origins class to Southwestern France where the group visited prehistoric cave sites associated with the earliest Homo Sapiens art and sculpture, dating to the period 28,000 to 12,000 BC. Students talked about the excellent preparation they had had, called the trip "awesome" and "amazing," and at least two decided to pursue a career in Archaeology. The only real complaint in the class evaluations was that the trip wasn't long enough.

An unsigned note in Harold's personnel file, recommending his hiring says, "seems like a nice guy. Should be a popular teacher." The writer had no idea. As the reports on the France trip make clear, Harold's enthusiasm and care for his students and their learning were reflected in the quality of their experience. Harold was a teacher and mentor not only to the many students in his classes over the years, but to countless other children of his friends and colleagues, many of whom traveled some distance to be at his funeral service or, upon learning of his death, sent notes expressing the profound effect he had had on their lives. One note from an alum talks about Harold's influence saying, "he was both challenging and kind. In the years since I graduated, Harold has kept in touch, shared professorial advice and extended his insight on the importance of family and a rich life. ... Now a professor myself," the writer goes on to say, "it is role models like Professor Juli that inspire me in my classroom to excel in a vocation that requires passion and dedication of a rare kind." Another note talks about Harold's enthusiasm and his good humor in his classes, and another about the joy of knowing him as a friend and mentor, and ultimately following in his footsteps as an archaeologist. And one alum notes that Harold "brought to life people who lived before textbooks, and even more importantly, while imbuing many with his passion, he encouraged all in a pursuit of broad intellectual curiosity."

When I talked with Harriet yesterday, she told me that she had received many letters not only from his former students but, surprisingly, from some of their parents. Harold, she said, loved all of his work, and he loved the College, but most important to him were the students he advised and taught. Whether it was a pre-major advisee, heading toward a major chosen by her parents rather than the one she really wanted or a student asking a seemingly foolish question in class or a senior struggling over a thesis, Harold paid attention. He helped the senior find his way toward clarity, he patiently answered the classroom question, or, better, helped the student find the answer on her own, and he helped the hapless sophomore find the major she really wanted and one at which she could excel rather than the one her parents thought she should have. (We're still not sure how the student's parents felt about that particular helpfulness, but the student continues to be grateful for the concern Harold showed and for the help he gave her in finding her way to a satisfying major and, ultimately, career.)

In a letter recommending his promotion to Associate Professor, Frank Johnson, then Dean of the Faculty, wrote, "The care with which Juli works has begun to produce results—a record of diligence and achievement in which there have been no false steps."

At his funeral service, his son, Eric, said that Harold loved the life he lived. And one can see why this would be so. It was a life lived with the diligence and achievement Frank Johnson mentioned, but also with good humor, intelligence, passion for his work and the people around him, and generosity of spirit. A life in which the false steps were very few and very far between. He will be much missed.