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Stuart J. Sigman (ASC ’79, GR ’82)

I arrived at Annenberg in 1976, the year of the bicentennial, and both the City of Philadelphia and Penn were alive with festivals, lots of bunting, and much community spirit.  If I'm remembering correctly, that early fall included the first of two dinners that the Ambassador and Mrs. Annenberg hosted for faculty and students of the School during my six-year residency.  I was fortunate to sit with a Lady of St. James Court and to speak briefly with Lenore Annenberg, whom I thanked profusely not only for the evening but for making the Annenberg School possible.

 

Over the course of six years, I met many distinguished world leaders, dignitaries and academics ... but ultimately nothing could compare to the faculty right on campus I was fortunate to study with.  My field, sometimes called "social communication," was represented at Penn by three pre-eminent scholars -- Ray Birdhwhistell, the anthropologist who applied a descriptive linguistic model to the study of bodily communication and coined the term "kinesics," who was a professor at Annenberg; Erving Goffman, the sociological observer of public life who transformed the study of social interaction and who held a named professorship in anthropology and a faculty appointment at Annenberg; and Dell Hymes, the anthropological linguist whose ethnography of communication paradigm served as a needed corrective to culturally silent models of language analysis, and who held multiple positions including Dean of the Graduate School of Education and an Annenberg faculty appointment.

 

There was no better time for someone with my interests to be at Annenberg than in the late 1970's and early 1980's.  The framework that studies everyday behavior as acts governed by cultural and social rules systems, and as the moment-by-moment strategies and maneuverings of the players at the scene, was being developed then.  The modest contributions I have made to the social communication literature, and my more recent work as a university administrator, have all been shaped by the approach to human relations largely forged at Annenberg and Penn.

 

I am grateful for the wisdom and generosity of the Annenbergs to fund a school dedicated to the study and practice of communication.  From the first formal dinner, to the seminars, visiting lectures, field trips, and the like, the Annenbergs fostered a context for scholarly excellence.  I honor their spirit on the Annenberg School's 50th anniversary.