2016 Distinguished Career Award: James Theler

James Theler
2016 Distinguished Career Award Recipient James Theler with MAC Board President Robert Jeske

Jim’s professional career began as Teaching Academic Staff at UW Lacrosse in1984. He retired from LaCrosse as Professor in 2010. Jim’s scholarly interests and lasting contributions fall into three broad areas: 1) the prehistory of the Upper Midwest, Great Plains, and Ohio River Valley; 2) prehistoric diet and subsistence behavior; and 3) construction of past environments using molluscan remains, primarily land snails. His strong, ecologically-based analytical framework transcends multiple related disciplines, including in geoarchaeology, invertebrate and vertebrate paleontology, and paleo-botany. His work has been published in numerous peer reviewed outlets. He has also published for the general public, most notably his 2003 book, Twelve Millennia: Archaeology of the Upper Mississippi River Valley (written with Ernie Boszhardt).

However, Jim’s letters of support were most enthusiastic about his role as a teacher, mentor, and steward of archaeology and science. He has a large number of former students scattered throughout the country and abroad in private consulting firms, government positions, and in the academy. He routinely mentored them in developing expertise in zooarchaeology by encouraging them to work as junior colleagues on his projects.

Jim has received a University of Wisconsin System Teaching Excellence Award in 1992, was named Outstanding Professor of the Year (at UWL) in 2000, and served as Distinguished Speaker for the Wisconsin Humanities Council from 1992 through 1996. Jim continues to engage public audiences in archaeology. He is presently a co-PI and presenter for an NEH Summer Institute for Teachers hosted by MVAC and the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse.

Over the course of his career, he has demonstrated a deep commitment to generating new knowledge about prehistoric societies in the region and sharing the results with students, colleagues, and the public, as well as helping to train the next generation of Midwestern archeologists.