Anthropology Alumna Appointed President of The Wenner-Gren Foundation

June 7, 2016

Danilyn Rutherford PhD '97 was recently appointed President of the Wenner-Gren Foundation. The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, Inc. is a private operating foundation dedicated to the advancement of anthropology throughout the world. Located in New York City, it is one of the major funding sources for international anthropological research and is actively engaged with the anthropological community through its varied grant, fellowship, networking, conference and symposia programs. Rutherford received her Ph.D. in anthropology with a minor in Southeast Asian studies from Cornell in 1997 after receiving her master’s from Cornell in 1991. She earned a Bachelor of Arts and Science in history and biology, with distinction, from Stanford University in 1983. 

Adam T. Smith, chair of the Department of Anthropology at Cornell shared the following:  “I had the pleasure of being colleagues with Danilyn for about 10 years at the University of Chicago, after she completed her Cornell PhD and before I was transplanted to her alma mater.  Danilyn is an exemplary anthropologist and a model intellectual.  I recall in one of our first encounters being so impressed by her ability to ask probing questions that are as unfailingly generous as they are insightful.  That spirit of productive, engaging, generous inquiry, I now recognize, is a hallmark of Cornell’s anthropological tradition. It is also exactly what anthropology’s leading institutions, like The Wenner-Gren Foundation, need right now.  I know she will lead anthropology in productive new directions.”

"I had no idea what I was getting into when I arrived in Ithaca in January 1989.  Cornell made me into an anthropologist.  The things I learned from my teachers and advisors have played an enormous role in my approach to the field." commented Danilyn Rutherford.

Jim Siegel, professor emeritus of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell and a member of her committee, used the following words to describe Danilyn: "intelligence, realism, human understanding that puts realism to one side- that plus limitless energy and courage". 

Wenner-Gren publishes Current Anthropology, one of the premier journals in the discipline, and recently launched SAPIENS, a new web portal that is helping to popularize anthropology with a broader audience outside the discipline.  The Foundation works to support all branches of anthropology and closely related disciplines concerned with human biological and cultural origins, development, and variation. The Wenner-Gren Foundation has three major goals – to support significant and innovative anthropological research into humanity's biological and cultural origins, development and variation, to foster the creation of an international community of research scholars in anthropology, and to provide leadership at the forefronts of the discipline.

Since its beginning in 1941 as the Viking Fund, the Wenner-Gren Foundation has nurtured the study of anthropology and been a leader in the discipline's continued evolution. Wenner-Gren provides over $5 million annually in support of a variety of programs for anthropological research and scholarship. In addition, Wenner-Gren runs some of the most compelling symposia in the field. 

The Wenner-Gren announcement is available at

Congratulations Danilyn and best wishes as the new president of The Wenner-Gren Foundation.


Danilyn Rutherford