The African Studies Association (ASA) mourns the death of Professor Dennis Cordell, who died on Wednesday October 16th, 2013 after a brief battle with cancer. At the time of his death, Professor Cordell was Associate Dean for the University/General Education Curriculum, Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Anthropology in the Southern Methodist University’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.
Professor Cordell chaired the ASA’s Herskovits Prize committee in 1991-1993, and was Program Chair in 2004 with Philip Zachernuk (Dalhousie University), for the 2004 Annual Meeting entitled The Power of Expression: Identity, Language, and Memory in Africa. He also served as panel section head in 2003 and 2010
The following is an excerpt of Professor Cordell’s Obituary from SMU’s blog page, posted on October 24th, 2013 by Kathleen Tibbetts:
Dr. Cordell was the author of more than 65 articles and book chapters, as well as scores of book reviews in English and French. He wrote Dar al-Kuti and The Last Years of the Trans-Saharan Slave Trade (with Joel Gregory and Victor Piche), and Hoe and Wage: A Social History of a Circular Migration System in West Africa, 1900-1975. He edited or co-edited five other volumes on Sub-Saharan African history and demography, including The Human Tradition in Modern Africa (2012). He also co-edited (with Jane Lenz Elder) The New Dallas: Immigrants, Community Institutions and Cultural Diversity: A Collection of Student Papers from SMU.
His work appeared in the Journal of African History and the Canadian Journal of African Studies, both of which he served as editor, and Politique Africaine. His articles are included in the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History, and the Academic American Encyclopedia.
Dr. Cordell received awards and research grants from the National Science Foundation, American Philosophical Society, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, among many others. He also served as president of the Canadian Association of African Studies and chair of the National Program Committee of the African Studies Association (USA). He is the only non-Canadian to be honored with a special award from the Canadian Association of African Studies-Association Canadienne des Études Africaines to recognize the promotion of bilingualism in French and English, and professional relations between CAAS-ACÉA and the African Studies Association.
His service to SMU included work with the University Curriculum, the President’s Task Force on Sexual Misconduct, the John Goodwin Tower Center for Political Studies, Education Abroad, the University Athletic Committee, and the First-Year Experience Task Force, among many others. He also served on the departmental committee that created the University’s Ph.D. program in American history.
At the time of his death, Dr. Cordell was president of the Board of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas. He had also served as a member of the board of trustees of AIDS Arms.
Born in St. Louis on Jan. 1, 1947, Dr. Cordell was valedictorian of his class at Fox High School in Lee’s Summit, Mo., and graduated cum laude in history from Yale University in 1968. His lifelong love for the continent of Africa began when he joined the Peace Corps upon graduation, serving in Chad in health education and water projects.
After returning to the United States, Dr. Cordell earned his M.A. degree in history in 1972 and his Ph.D. in African history in 1977 from the University of Wisconsin. He also received a Maîtrise ès-Sciences (M.Sc.) in demography from l’Université de Montréal in 1987.
Dr. Cordell is survived by his husband, Michael Alexander Fuller; his brother, Harry C. Cordell, and his wife, Karen; his sister, Suzanne Wildman, and her husband, Robert; and a nephew and three nieces.