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Sara Immerwahr (1914-2008)
Sara Immerwahr (1914-2008)

Sara Immerwahr (1914-2008) was educated at Mount Holyoke College (BA in Archaeology 1935) and Bryn Mawr College (PhD 1943). In 1936 she gained her first look at Greece and Turkey as well as her first experience in the field, spending a semester working for Hetty Goldman at the joint Bryn Mawr/Harvard excavation at Tarsus. Later she served for two years (1940-1942) as secretary to Professor Mary Swindler, her Bryn Mawr mentor, during the latter’s tenure as editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Archaeology.

En route to the 1943 defense of her dissertation on “The Mycenaean Pictorial Style of Vase Painting in the Thirteenth Century B.C.,” Sara received an Ella Riegel Fellowship from Bryn Mawr to attend the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in the academic year of 1938/1939, and then used an ASCSA fellowship to spend a second year at the School. In 1942, convinced by Professor Mary Swindler, she accepted a teaching position in art history at Wellesley College, replacing a professor who had gone off to war. Sara taught there until 1946, when she assumed Professor Swindler’s place for a year at Bryn Mawr.

Married by that time, Sara then moved to New Haven to be with her new husband as he began his own teaching career at Yale. During the ensuing ten years in New Haven, she wrote book reviews for the AJA and an annual article on archaeology for the Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia Yearbook, and continued her own research, publishing her first full article in 1956, “The Protome Painter and Some Contemporaries.”

The next stop on the academic trail for the Immerwahrs was Chapel Hill, where Henry joined the Department of Classics at the University of North Carolina. Sara received a fellowship from the American Association of University Women that enabled her to begin work on her study of the Neolithic and Bronze Age material that had come to light during the American School’s excavations in the Athenian Agora. In 1964 she returned to teaching, first on a part-time basis in the Classics department at Chapel Hill, and later as an Associate Professor in the Department of Art.

Sara had a long history of association with the American School at Athens, as a Regular Member from 1938-1939 and Fellow of the School from 1939-1940 (serving as acting Librarian). She first met her future husband Henry Immerwahr at the School in 1939, when Henry came to the School as a member. She returned in 1970-1971 as Senior Research Scholar at the Agora Excavations, being assigned the publication for Neolithic and Bronze Ages which culminated in her book, XIII of the American School’s The Athenian Agora monograph series, The Neolithic and Bronze Ages, published in 1971.

After teaching in the Art Department at the University of North Carolina for some years she returned to the School as the Director’s wife and Senior Research Fellow of the School from 1977-1982, organizing trips and museum sessions for the School’s academic program.

The above was adapted from the Biography of Sara A. Immerwahr by Richard F. Liebhart. See further Sara Immerwahr’s obituary by Mary Sturgeon and Biography of Sara A. Immerwahr by Richard F. Liebhart (adapted from Anne P. Chapin (ed.) ΧΑΡΙΣ: Essays in Honor of Sara A. Immerwahr (Hesperia Supplement 33, 2004)).