Skip to main content

University primatologist caps 4 decades of teaching, mentoring with award

Professor Leanne Nash
May 07, 2012

Leanne Nash was the first female professor and only primatologist on campus when she joined Arizona State University’s Department of Anthropology 41 years ago.

She is retiring this month from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which was formed from the earlier anthropology department.

In April, the ASU Faculty Women’s Association awarded Nash the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award, which “seeks to recognize faculty members who have demonstrated outstanding mentorship to students and/or to other faculty.”

Nash’s success as a mentor is especially notable because most of her students have been women, who continued on to successful careers in a field long dominated by men.

“Nobody epitomizes the characteristics of support and guidance this award honors as strongly and as continuously as professor Leanne Nash,” said Brenda J. Baker, fellow ASU anthropologist.

Throughout her career, Nash reached out to other women faculty, providing guidance that ranged from answering questions about the university, and the field in general, to offering emotional support and resources.

Her legacy also includes launching eight new anthropology doctoral graduates and chairing 26 master’s level and five undergraduate student thesis committees. Her first doctoral student also was the first female doctorate awarded in physical anthropology at ASU.

During her tenure, she remained the university’s sole primatologist and gained a reputation for establishing and overseeing a galagos colony on the Tempe campus and for her collaborative work with the Primate Foundation of Arizona and the Phoenix Zoo. Nash was one of the first primatologists anywhere to study exudates, the plant gum that some primates eat and ferment internally.

In 2008, the American Society of Primatologists honored Nash with the Distinguished Primatologist Award. Yet, for Nash, the “inspiring students and great colleagues” she has worked with over the years are the highlights of her career.

Baker added, “Nash has had a profound effect on the field of primatology and the development of ASU’s anthropology program. She will also be remembered for many years to come for her ongoing dedication to mentoring students and colleagues.”

Ashley Carter,
School of Human Evolution and Social Change