Date September 26, 2022
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Community unites to celebrate Martha and Artemis Joukowsky, Brown’s ‘lifelong ambassadors’

Stories, tears and Brown pride filled a weekend-long celebration of life honoring Chancellor Emeritus Artemis A.W. Joukowsky Jr. and Professor Emerita Martha Sharp Joukowsky, who died in 2020 and 2022, respectively.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — As an undergraduate at Brown University, Laurel Bestock found herself, time and time again, immersed in improbably significant research opportunities.

At age 20, she became a trench supervisor at a world-famous archaeological dig site in Petra, Jordan. She wrote up her findings, publishing them two years later in a respected peer-reviewed journal. 

While not every undergraduate lands the chance to tackle such hefty roles, Bestock said, such were the possibilities in working with Martha Sharp Joukowsky. The late professor of archaeology taught at Brown for decades, thrusting her students into leadership positions and encouraging them to learn and thrive.

“[These were roles] she asked me to play, and expected that I could, and stood back and let me do it,” Bestock said of Joukowsky. “Martha didn’t make me — she gave me the incomparably greater gift of creating spaces over and over again in which I could make myself.”

Bestock, a Class of 1999 graduate and now an associate professor of archaeology, Egyptology and Assyriology at Brown, was one of several women who spoke at a Friday, Sept. 23, panel event celebrating Joukowsky’s decades of scholarly accomplishments and immense influence on a generation of female archaeologists before her death last January. Bestock spoke before hundreds of in-person and virtual guests, among them alumni, Joukowsky family members, and University students, faculty and staff.

The Friday event kicked off a weekend dedicated to Joukowsky and her late husband, Artemis A.W. Joukowsky Jr., who died in 2020. Artemis Joukowsky graduated from Brown in 1955, and after a 30-year career as a senior executive at the American International Group, he returned to Providence in service of his alma mater. He joined the Brown Corporation’s Board of Trustees in 1985, served as vice chancellor of the University from 1988 to 1997 and began a two-year term as chancellor in 1997. He continued to serve on the Corporation until 2009.

In tribute to Artemis’ staunch advocacy for Brown Athletics and student athletes from across the generations, the University celebrated his memory at a Saturday, Sept. 24, football game against Harvard, the first Ivy League matchup of the season. Alumni and others in the Brown community swapped stories about Joukowsky at a tailgate party, and at halftime, University leaders took to Richard Grouse Field to share a few words about how Joukowsky remained “Ever True” to Brown throughout his life.

Together, Brown President Christina H. Paxson said on Friday, the Joukowskys were “Brown’s most ardent, dedicated, virtuous, interesting, funny committee members and lifelong ambassadors.” Their vast impact, she said, is evident across campus. Their generous support established the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World in 2004. Sculptures and murals dot College Hill today thanks to Artemis Joukowsky’s initiative in the 1980s to establish a public art initiative. Their donations have sustained multiple endowed professorships, scholarships for student athletes and initiatives at the Warren Alpert Medical School, among much more. 

At Friday’s panel discussion event, Brown Chancellor Samuel M. Mencoff said that Artemis Joukowsky elevated the University and each individual community member: “Arte was relentless in encouraging Brown to always aim higher in all that it did in its pursuit of truth, excellence, knowledge and service to society.”

Paxson said the Joukowskys’ story began more than 65 years ago, when the two met on College Hill. A 1958 graduate who attended Pembroke College, where women studied at Brown until 1971, Martha Joukowsky became a distinguished scholar of the Near East, conducting fieldwork in Lebanon, Hong Kong, Italy, Turkey and Jordan, while Artemis pursued a career in international business. When the couple returned to Providence, in the mid-1980s, Martha taught at Brown as a professor for more than 20 years until her retirement in 2002. Her extraordinary reputation as an archaeologist, and in particular her groundbreaking discoveries in Petra, drove dozens of aspiring women archaeologists to come to Brown to work alongside her.

“Martha [was] the archaeologist I’d always wanted to be since I was 6 years old,” Jarrett A. Lobell, a Class of 1992 graduate and current editor-in-chief of Archaeology Magazine, shared at Friday’s event. “In college, classics and archaeology seemed to me to be a lot of men, [yet] Martha was president of the Archaeological Institute of America. Little did I know I’d be working there… just like Martha. We are not the women we are without the women in our lives.”

In stories about Martha Joukowsky shared by Brown leaders and alumni, common themes emerged. They recalled the archaeologist’s penchant for greeting everyone with three kisses on the cheek. They remembered the sandboxes Joukowsky set up to teach fieldwork basics inside the former Center for Old World Archaeology and Art on Waterman Street. They shared vivid memories of the first time Joukowsky invited each of them to lunch at her house on Prospect Street, the nights they spent in her guest room when they found themselves without heat or housing, the hours they spent poring over slides in her basement. They wiped away tears as they recalled the professor’s unflagging generosity.

“I had a key to her house, and I was not the only one,” recalled Class of 2007 graduate Eleanor Power, now an assistant professor of methodology at the London School of Economics. “That basement was open to everyone to use. Martha gave us this haven that was [both] physical and emotional. She had confidence in us, an expectation that we would rise to the occasion… and so we simply did.”

Ahead of the panel, Paxson shared that, in honor of the Joukowskys’ generous spirit, Brown would establish an Artemis A.W. and Martha Sharp Joukowsky Memorial Fieldwork Fund, intended to provide additional support for students participating in fieldwork and practical archaeology across the globe. She expressed hope that the fund would empower future generations of archaeologists to pursue lives of usefulness and reputation, just as the Joukowskys had done. 

“Without Arte and Martha,” Paxson said, “Brown would not be where it is today. I really believe that to be true.”