Weatherford to retire after 25 years

By Amy Lieberman

Twenty-five years and one New York Times best-selling novel later, Anthropology professor Jack Weatherford will retire after this semester. An interim professor will replace him next year, before the department hires a new full-time professor, ideally a cultural anthropologist, anthropology professor Dianna Shandy said. Weatherford does not plan to continue teaching in the long-term when he moves with his wife to South Carolina, his home state. He will, however, co-teach a Macalester course on Mongolia with the new professor, a China and Mongolia specialist of Mongolian descent, in the fall and will also continue to work with a number of students in an informal advisor capacity.

“It’s just time to retire,” Weatherford said. “I never particularly planned to retire but life works out in a certain way and the best thing to do is to be happy with whatever opportunities you have.”

Weatherford will continue working on “The Daughters of Genghis Khan,” the follow-up to his renowned novel, “Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World,” published in 2004. His new novel will debut late 2009.

People can also look to see traces of Weatherford on TV-he sold the rights to “Genghis Khan” last year and says that a production company plans to turn it into a televised series.

But Weatherford said that he isn’t tracking the series’ development.

“My thought was, if I sell the rights, I sell the rights,” he said. “I just do my work and let everybody else do their work.”

Weatherford also said he expects the television production to distort his work, just as some people might say he “distorted the history” of Mongolia.

Weatherford developed his focus on Mongolia after 1990, when the country opened its doors to foreigners. Since then, Weatherford has devoted much of his studies to the region and redefined the Anthropology department with a Mongolian focus, thanks to his courses that all tie in with the subject.

“He is just such a superstar on a national and international level,” Shandy said. “He is so passionate about whatever it is he is working on at the time. I think he just pulls other people into his passion and excitement.”

Weatherford he doesn’t expect the department to continue to cater some of its courses to the study of Mongolia after he retires.

“I’m not going to push for that it. If students want it and professors want it, that’s one thing,” he said. “I really believe people should do what they want.”

Weatherford was uncertain of what he will miss about Macalester, but said that the library and the food are the two things that have changed the most significantly in his 25 years of teaching.

“The professors and students kind of stay the same but the food and the library have improved,” he said.

Weatherford recalled when Macalester’s cafeteria food consisted of a “couple of giant cans of vegetables and a giant platter of generic meat.

“You had a great choice,” he said. “Eat it or don’t eat it. Today, there is such a variety of food. It’s such a great example of globalization.”

But just as Weatherford frequented the cafeteria in the 80s, he still dines at Café Mac everyday during the week.

“People are usually happy when they are eating,” he said, “so I enjoy that.”

Nagi Otgonshar ’08, Macalester’s first Mongolian student, said that Weatherford will be missed for his teaching and personal guidance.

“He helps students find out what their passions are,” Otgonshar said, “and to find their Mongolia. One of the best things we can get out of this college is a professor like Jack Weatherford.