Ann Wightman, professor of history, emerita, died on March 11 at the age of 70.
Wightman was born in South Euclid, Ohio. She earned her BA from Duke University and her MPhil and PhD from Yale. First arriving at Wesleyan as a visiting instructor in 1979, she remained here for 36 years until her retirement in 2015. Wightman was an accomplished scholar with a focus on Latin America. She felt that she found a “second home” doing research in the Andes, and she sought to capture the history of that region in her first book, Indigenous Migration and Social Change: The Foresteros of Cuzco, 1570-1720 (Duke University Press, 1990), which received the Herbert E. Bolton Memorial Prize for “the best English language book on any aspect of Latin American history.”
She was a mentor to many faculty and students, and a popular teacher. “Ann Wightman was an extraordinary and effective University colleague,” said Nathanael Greene, professor of history. “As a scholar, she won praise and prize; her teaching was uncommonly demanding but absolutely inspirational, and she was among the early recipients of the Binswanger Prize.”
Robert “Bo” Conn, professor of Spanish, said: “For decades students flocked to Ann’s courses. Walking around campus at reunion time with ‘Wightman,’ as students affectionately knew and even called her, was like walking around with a legend. They all had memories and stories of a dedicated and charismatic teacher who made Latin America come alive in the classroom with her brilliant lectures on colonialism, state formation, and cultural resistance, and who helped them to develop as critical thinkers and people.”
Wightman had a lasting impact on Wesleyan. She was instrumental in founding Wesleyan’s Center for the Americas, which brought the Latin American Studies and American Studies programs together as part of a common enterprise with shared, team-taught introductory courses.
“Ann was one of my best friends, and as colleagues, we worked together on creating the Center for the Americas,” said Patricia Hill, professor of American studies, emerita. “Ann was not only an admired colleague and teacher but a dear and best friend to many. She was devoted to the people of Wesleyan.”
Wightman is survived by her husband, Mal Bochner. Memorial contributions may be made to the Ann Wightman Scholarship Fund, c/o Wesleyan University Advancement, 291 Main Street, Middletown, CT 06457, Attn: Jennifer Opalacz.