Alice Pomponio, Potsdam
Wednesday, June 20, 2012 - 2:47 pm

Alice Pomponio—or Ali, to those who knew and loved her—passed away on June 19, 2012 after surviving brain cancer for more than two years. She was born in Port Jefferson and grew up in Ronkonkoma. She made the most of a life that was far too short.

Joyous, adventurous, courageous, a fierce warrior for justice with a kind and loving heart, she is missed by heartbroken friends in places as far-flung as Hawaii, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Italy, the Caribbean, and throughout North America.

Ali graduated from Connetquot High School on Long Island in 1970 and from SUNY Geneseo in 1974. She spent a year during that time studying in Italy and developed friendships there that she maintained for the rest of her life. She revisited these friendships in 2008 when she won a Fulbright Fellowship to spend a year teaching at the University of Siena in Tuscany.

She earned her Ph.D. in anthropology at Bryn Mawr in 1983, with a dissertation based on eighteen months of field work on a ten-acre island called Mandok off the coast of Papua New Guinea. She returned to Mandok for another year in 1987, and in 1988 she won a Mellon Fellowship to write and update her research at the University of Pittsburg. In the last years of her life she was working on a dictionary of the unwritten language of the Mandok people, to help preserve their linguistsic heritage for future generations of islanders.

Ali joined the faculty of St. Lawrence University in 1983, earning the rank of Professor of Anthropology in 1994 and becoming Chair of the Department of Anthropology in 2004. In the meantime she authored and edited three books and was elected President of the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, an international scholarly organization. She and her husband Richard Perry co-directed St. Lawrence University’s Kenya Semester Program for eighteen months from 1994 to 1996. In fall 2011 she won St. Lawrence University’s distinguished J. Calvin Keene Award for excellence in combining teaching, scholarship, and concerns for social justice. Among the factors determining this award were the many admiring letters from her students.

In February 2013, the Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania will hold an event titled “Special Session in Honor of Ali Pomponio: Expressions of Joy in Oceanic Societies.” The description states that “we have chosen to honor Ali with a session devoted to expressions of joy as homage to her vivacious, joyful personality and the joy that she has brought to all who have gotten to know her.”

Ali is, and will always be, sorely missed by her husband, Richard Perry and their son Charles Gregory Pomponio Perry; three brothers, Alan, Richard and David Pomponio; and a sister, Marian Allred.

Her parents, Charles Angelo Pomponio and Marian (Addeo) Pomponio predeceased her, as did her brother Robert in 1983.

The world is poorer and sadder for her loss. And the world is better, and richer, because she was here with us.

The family will receive friends at the Lawrence Funeral Home, 21 Park Street, Canton on Friday, June 22nd from 2-4 and 6-8 p.m. and on Saturday from 2-4 p.m. A memorial service celebrating the life of Ali will be announced in the fall.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the St. Lawrence County Cancer Fund, Inc., P.O. Box 291, Canton, NY 13617.

Condolences may be sent online at,