Ann McElroy was born in Connecticut in 1942. Daughter of an Army family, transience in childhood predisposed her to the mobile lifestyle of an anthropologist. At the University of Kansas, where she intended as an undergraduate to prepare for a career in clinical psychology, Ann converted to cultural anthropology after taking introductory classes with some extraordinary professors, including Felix Moos, Keith Otterbein, and William Stein. Under the mentorship of James Clifton, she did ethnographic research in a Prairie Potawatomi community, wrote a senior honors paper, and received the B.A. in Anthropology in 1966. As a graduate student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ann was fortunate to study with arctic specialists John J. Honigmann and Irma Honigmann and with medical anthropologist Dorothea Leighton. With support from NSF and NIMH grants, she carried out doctoral research in northern Canada in 1967 and 1969-70 on Inuit family life and child enculturation in two Baffin Island towns.
Accepting a faculty position at the State University of New York at Buffalo in 1971, Ann’s specialties in psychological anthropology and arctic ethnology soon expanded to the emerging field of medical anthropology. Fruitful collaboration with her friend and colleague Patricia K. Townsend led to publication in 1979 of Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective, now available in the fifth edition (2009). Ann and fellow faculty developed a series of applied research and training programs, including Research Careers in Anthropology (FIPSE), an Anthropology and Social Epidemiology M.S./PhD track, and an Applied Medical Anthropology M.A. concentration. These programs provided student projects on migrant farmworker health in Western New York, services for refugees and immigrants in inner city neighborhoods, community integration of persons with traumatic brain injury, alternative childbirth management options, and study of gaps and needs in services to families affected by trauma grief and loss in Niagara County. It has been gratifying as a teacher and mentor to see the career choices in applied and practicing anthropology made by many of her 17 doctoral and 42 M.A. advisees. In recent years Ann has also been part of a faculty advisory committee for establishment of the Center for Disability Studies at SUNY Buffalo, which now offers an interdisciplinary Master’s degree, and she is currently preparing a text, Disability and Diversity: Anthropological Approaches to Impairment and Difference.
Additional applied activities include a summer of pilot research on educational change in rural Iran (1974), a summer of clinical training in geriatrics in southern Germany (1976), a year of participatory action research among farm labor activists in northern California (1978-79), and several years as consultant to childbirth reformers and midwifery advocates in western New York State (1981-1986). Longitudinal research in Inuit communities expanded between 1992 and 2006 to include work with elders in four Baffin Island communities to record their memories and narratives of encounters with missionaries, traders, teachers, and other agents of change as children and youth in the 1920s and 1930s. This research is presented in Nunavut Generations: Change and Continuity in Baffin Island Inuit Communities (2008).
A member of the Society for Applied Anthropology since 1976 and a Sustaining Fellow since 2001, Ann regards the SfAA as a haven from the theoretical myopia and too often insular concerns of academia. Recognizing how the annual meetings provide focus and renewal of purpose to members, Ann’s partner of 35 years, Roger Glasgow, and their children Andrew and Catherine Glasgow, have always supported her involvement in SfAA’s activities. This involvement includes coordinating a health network as part of the Committee on Regional and Special Interest Groups and Affiliations in 1984; chairing the national organizing meeting of the Resource Group in Health and Anthropology in 1984; and in 1985 co-organizing and co-chairing (with Barbara Rylko-Bauer) the Health and Anthropology Network symposium, “Knowledge Utilization in the Health Policy Process.” This symposium led to the publication of Making Our Research Useful: Case Studies in the Utilization of Anthropological Knowledge (1989), co-edited by John van Willigen, Barbara Rylko-Bauer, and Ann McElroy. She was elected to the SfAA Executive Committee for the 1989-92 term, serving on the Departmental Services Committee as well as organizing and chairing an Ethics Committee as part of her duties on the Executive Committee. Ann served as an Annual Meeting Program Committee member (1991-92); as a member and then chair of the Nominations and Elections Committee (1994-96); as a member of the Malinowski Award Committee from 2000-2002 and then as chair from 2002-2005; and as a member of the Peter K. New Award committee from 2006-08.