A memorial service for Professor Emeritus Jacob Jerome Brody, known to friends and family as Jerry, will be held May 17 on the campus of The University of New Mexico.

Professor Brody

Brody died on May 5, 2024, at the age of 95. He was at home surrounded by family with Jean, his beloved wife of 68 years, at his side. He is survived by Jean, children Jefferson Lindsey Brody, Jonathan Edward Brody, and Allison Janet Brody, five grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren. He was buried on May 7 near his home in San Pedro with a small graveside service for family and close friends. A public memorial service for Dr. Brody will be held on Friday, May 17, from 4-6 p.m. in the Anthropology Building, Room 163, on the UNM campus.

Brody had a distinguished history at UNM, both at the Maxwell Museum and in the Department of Art History, where he taught until 1989. He was the first director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology in its present form after it was renamed from the Museum of Anthropology and moved into its current building. He curated several major exhibitions, including some that toured nationwide.

Brody was born on April 24, 1929, to Aladar and Esther (née Kraiman) Brody in Brooklyn, N.Y. He was the youngest of four siblings (Rebeca, Bertha, and Soloman).

Brody moved to New Mexico in 1955 after serving during the Korean war: “If the Dodgers can move west, so can I!”

He always claimed that he chose Albuquerque based on UNM’s early start date and excellent ratio of female to male students. Sure enough, soon after classes began Brody met his wife, Jean, on a six week-long pithouse dig. Jean dazzled him with her fiery red hair and shovel skills. She, on the other hand, remembers to this day that he was no good with a shovel.

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They were married in 1956. It was the beginning of a lifelong partnership and friendship that involved lots of laughter, adventure, travel, work, learning, and raising their family together. Brody was a devoted and affectionate husband, deeply in love with Jean until the very end. When visiting them in their retirement home you could usually find them on the couch holding hands, reading companionably or reminiscing. 

Brody earned his Certification in Fine Arts from Cooper Union in 1950; his BA from UNM in 1956; his MA from UNM in 1964; and his Ph.D. from UNM in 1970.

Brody was professor of Anthropology, then of Art History, at UNM from 1965-1989; and Professor Emeritus since 1989. A life-changing role for him was the opportunity to serve as curator, then director of the Maxwell Museum of Anthropology at UNM from 1962-1985. He was a member of the Advisory Board of the Ghost Ranch Museum and the New Mexico Museum of Natural History from 1981-1984; the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian from 1989-1992; and the Zuni Pueblo Museum from 1992 onward. He and his wife Jean taught with the New Mexico Museum of Natural History’s Southwest Institute for many years. He also served as a periodic research curator at the Maxwell Museum, School of American Research, and the Laboratory of Anthropology.

Brody authored 16 books, many of which were foundational in the art history world, including Indian Painters and White PatronsMimbres Painted Pottery, and others. 

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A respected scholar and sought-after lecturer, Brody was a pioneer in his field, especially in taking what was thought of as “primitive” at the time and considering it as art. He explored Mimbres pottery and other southwest Indigenous art forms from the perspective of an art historian and anthropologist, often co-creating knowledge systems with contemporary Pueblos. He was an early advocate for the repatriation and sovereignty of Indigenous artifacts and knowledge systems. Above all, Brody loved art and was a museum guy through and through, deeply appreciating the way museum exhibits can tell a story. 

Working together with Jean and others, Brody helped create rock art classification systems and documented rock art sites throughout the SW. Anyone who had the experience of going with them on rock art recording missions knows how incredible it was to watch Brody and Jean working together. They were both passionate about rock art and its scholarship.

Brody traveled extensively and adventurously, including an epic family camping trip through Europe, bike-packing tours of France and England, and many trips to Mexico. More than anything, he and Jean spent lots of time hiking around New Mexico documenting rock art (as Jean puts it, “We sure covered a lot of New Mexico”). Brody found constant wonder in New Mexico’s skies. He once commented to his son, Jeff, on an overcast day: “There are a million colors of gray up there.” 

Brody was a talented storyteller, pun-maker, and purveyor of Little Willy jokes. There was nothing more satisfying than telling Grandpa a good (or bad) joke that elicited his delighted bark of laughter.

"He was a wonderful man, a great, level-headed, cheerful, supportive colleague and a towering figure, despite his short stature, in Mimbres and Southwestern ceramic studies,” said Lawrence Straus, the Emeritus Leslie Spier Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at UNM. “They don’t make them like Jerry anymore. UNM and Southwestern archeology owe him a big debt for his many, long-term contributions and ceramic analysis worldwide is now missing a very significant contributor."