...we felt we could not just let him and all that he accomplished in his short life go unmarked... Louise Decormier
When an earthquake devastated the Mayan region of Guatemala in 1976, killing 28,000 people, the American Embassy there asked Albany anthropology Professor Robert Carmack to advise them on reconstruction and aid. He took undergraduate Christopher DeCormier, B.A.’76, with him as an assistant during his travels in the Central American nation, and DeCormier became a major contributor to the report, many recommendations of which the Embassy followed.
Carmack, an internationally known Mayan scholar, worked closely with DeCormier while he was a student at Albany. “He lived in Chi Chi Castengo (a popular tourist center) for a year, learned a Mayan language, and recorded some interesting folk tales and myths,” Carmack recalled. DeCormier, who wanted to study Mayan languages and become a linguist, went on to UCLA, where he was a graduate student when he was diagnosed with the cancer that ended his life in 1977. Soon afterward, DeCormier’s parents created the Christopher DeCormier Scholarship to honor his memory by providing field research assistance to other young anthropology scholars at the University at Albany.
“In the days following Chris’s death, we felt we could not just let him and all that he accomplished in his short life go unmarked,” said his mother, Louise DeCormier, an actress who has appeared in several Hollywood movies. “It has been a positive experience and we think it would have meant a lot to Chris.” She and her husband, Robert DeCormier, musical director of the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and Chamber Chorus, always attend the annual award ceremony on campus and sometimes even perform. The event is organized by Albany’s highly regarded Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, which is dedicated to the study and dissemination of knowledge about the peoples and cultures of Mexico and northern Central America.
One recent recipient of the scholarship is Lea Pickard, a Ph.D. student from Mississippi who is researching “Ideologies of Reproduction in Guatemala” for her doctoral thesis. “The scholarship allowed me to get everything settled so that I can go back to Guatemala and start my long-term dissertation research in January,” Pickard said. “Having done the background work will also make it easier to apply for larger grants.”
The DeCormier Scholarship, which is worth $1,500 to $2,000, is one of several annual awards established at Albany to honor the memory of special students. Some others:
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