James A. Fox honored with 2016 Richard W. Lyman Award

Fox, an associate professor of anthropology, received the award at a Nov. 10 ceremony.

The Stanford Alumni Association last week honored James A. Fox, a linguistic anthropologist who has led travel/study trips to locations around the world – including Guatemala, Easter Island and Norway – with the 2016 Richard W. Lyman Award.

James A. Fox

Stanford anthropologist James A. Fox is the recipient of the 2016 Richard W. Lyman Award. (Image credit: Katie Cleese Photography)

The award, which was established to honor Richard W. Lyman, Stanford’s seventh president, recognizes faculty for “extraordinary service” to the association. Fox received the award Nov. 10 at the Lyman Dinner, an invitation-only faculty appreciation event.

Fox, an associate professor of anthropology at Stanford, has conducted extensive linguistic fieldwork in Guatemala and Mexico, including a study of Ayapa Zoque, a nearly extinct language spoken by a handful of people in the state of Tabasco. He is known for his research on Mayan linguistics and hieroglyphics. Fox has maintained deep ties to Norway, the land of his ancestors, and is fluent in Norwegian.

He led his first Stanford Travel/Study trip in 1975, the year after he joined Stanford’s faculty. Since then, he has led nearly six dozen trips for Stanford alumni, friends and family.

Earlier this year, Fox led a trip to Mexico and Guatemala with an itinerary that included visits to archaeological sites and ruins buried deep in tropical jungles, the National Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in Guatemala City, and the majestic colonial city of Antigua, a small city surrounded by volcanoes in southern Guatemala.

Brett S. Thompson, director of Stanford Travel/Study, said it was “more than fitting” that Fox was selected for the award.

“Professor Fox has educated and inspired hundreds of Stanford alumni who traveled with him for over the last 30 years to diverse regions of the world, where his expertise and enthusiasm informed their experience,” Thompson said.

“He is truly an educator, a guide who has forged loyal bonds between Stanford and its alumni through the gift of his knowledge generously shared.”

Alumni who have traveled with Fox described him as a thoughtful, caring leader with a droll sense of humor who provides informative and entertaining lectures. On a trip to Norway, he went out of his way – on the bus, in museums and during tours – to share his knowledge of the country and personal stories, one alum said.

Another travel/study participant said: “I liked both his discussion of ancient Mayan writing and customs, as well as his descriptions of contemporary life. Jim was forever patient with our sometimes repetitive questions and full of quiet humor.”

Another alum described Fox as an excellent lecturer whose style and preparation were first-rate.

Recent Lyman Award winners include Jeffrey Koseff, a professor of civil and environmental engineering, and the founding co-director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment; and Margot Gerritsen, an associate professor of energy resources engineering and director of the Institute for Computational and Mathematical Engineering.