WKU remembers anthropology professor Lindsey Powell

Mei Du’s and her late husband, Lindsey Powell’s, wedding photograph along with flowers from a student and Powell’s music stand at their home on Feb. 21. (Demetrius Freeman/HERALD)

Anna Lawson

To those who knew him, ‘inspiring’ is not a strong enough word to describe anthropology professor Lindsey Powell. Students and coworkers alike regard Powell, 47, as one of the most brilliant and caring people who have walked on campus.

One of his past students, Hallie Collins, went to India with him on a trip and was able to witness his cultured mind and creative personality.

“My first college class was with him in introduction to cultural anthropology,” she said.

“He was very quirky and different. He had an eccentric personality and he didn’t try to hide it, he was driven to be himself all the time.”

Collins thought of Powell as an “extremely smart” professor.

“He was brilliant, but he was careful to never make those around him feel stupid. That was really special and amazing,” she said.

Powell had many passions, among them was traveling and learning about as many cultures as he could.

Michael Ann Williams, Folk Studies & Anthropology department head, said he was enthusiastic about so many things.

“When he came to interview he talked about his passion for the violin which was unexpected, but really neat,” she said.

“Many people were very devoted to him. Everyone found him very inspiring, and they are leaving notes on his door. It’s been a horrible loss for students and professors.”

Williams said Powell inspired every person he met, and she will always remember that about him.

“The students really were inspired to study culture and film because of him. He really gave students a sense to want to understand other cultures and work with people from other places,” she said.

Non-traditional student Rachel Wyatt said Powell helped her in the decision to study anthropology.

“When I took the class I was just choosing it as an elective. Within about 15 minutes of hearing him talk there was a pull,” she said. “He is a genius and very insightful. He convinced me that anthropology was what I needed to do.”

Wyatt said Powell cared about his students and was interested in them. “He always has an answer, and he always had options to give you. He was a motivator,” she said. “Everything I’m doing now is because of him.”

Powell liked to build friendships with his students so they felt comfortable around him.

“He helped me to build confidence in my decision to become an anthropologist,” Collins said. “He really knew how to keep students interested in class.”

Powell had a way of communicating to his students in a way that no other professor could.

“When I would leave his classroom I didn’t want to go on to another. No other class could hold up to the expectation that I had after leaving his class,” Wyatt said. “I just wanted to sit and absorb everything he said.”

Powell led a group of students on a trip to India in the summer of 2011. While there he and his wife, Mei, were married and some of the students were able to be in the ceremony. This moment, for Collins, was one she will never forget.

“He looked up at me and he was just smiling. It is one of my favorite moments with him. He was so happy,” she said.

However, Powell wasn’t just a leader for his students. He also worked hard to have solid relationships with his colleagues.

“He was a very pleasant person to be around, the department is a very small and close department. People feel like they lost a member of their family,” Williams said.

Powell taught all his students to be kinder people. He would speak about issues and responsibilities they needed to take in their daily lives.

“He made me want to be aware of the world around me, he wanted us to take care of each other,” Collins said. “Taking tests was never as important to him as understanding things. It was important to him for us to grow as humans, then as scholars.”

Powell lived a life full of learning and teaching, and will be remembered by the people who knew him as someone who lived life to the fullest.

“He lived an extraordinarily rich and happy life,” Powell’s wife Mei Du said. “He lived the life he wanted, and it was very full.”