Dr. Candace Weddle Livingston is an explorer.
OK, so she hasn’t climbed Mount Everest. She hasn’t stepped foot on the North Pole. She’s never kayaked the crocodile-infested whitewater of the Zambezi River, hiked the 2,168 miles of lush deciduous forest along the Appalachian Trail or walked on the barren, chalky dust of the moon.
But set aside the caricature of an explorer – a man, dressed in khaki, sporting an unkempt beard that frames a weathered, deeply lined and tanned face whose expression is one of stoic confidence – and consider Dr. Livingston’s credentials.
She’s excavated a Bronze Age village in the mountains of Transylvania. Researched ancient Roman cults in Asia Minor. Probed previously unexplored cultural sites in Turkey dating from Neolithic pre-history to the days of the Ottoman Empire.
So impressive are Dr. Livingston’s accomplishments that arguably the most prestigious international organization dedicated to global scientific exploration – The Explorers Club – this year named her as a Fellow. It’s the society’s highest and most prestigious level of membership, one she shares with adventurers such as Mount Everest pioneers Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay, filmmaker James Cameron and Teddy Roosevelt, the 26thPresident of the United States.
Trite as it may sound, the honor is a dream come true, said Dr. Livingston, a professor of art history and archeology at Anderson University. And, interestingly enough, she understands culture’s preoccupation with the explorer archetype. After all, it inspired her, too.
“This is the culmination of a dream I’ve had since I was a kid and saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in the movie theater,” she said. “I always wanted to be an archeologist. Also, I’ve always been a big reader of 19thcentury fiction. Sherlock Holmes, characters like that. And it seemed all of them had this club they went to, where they sat around smoking their pipes and talking about their adventures.
“That’s kind of what (The Explorers Club) is,” Dr. Livingston said. “And I never thought it would be possible in reality. But here I am.”
She got there because of her academic credentials, professional reputation and extensive accomplishments in the field of archeology. Her application to The Explorers Club is impressive, noting her interest and scholarship in Etruscan, Roman and Early Christian art and history. Her research and speaking engagements have taken her to 39 countries on four continents – and she’s visited six of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
“If there is an opportunity to travel, learn new things and experience the world and its cultures – whether that means a bluegrass festival in my home state or a trip abroad – I am on board,” she said.
Dr. Livingston’s induction into The Explorers Club – a place where, in the past, members have been known to ride zebras into the annual club dinner – is something that will have a tangible benefit for AU students. She organized AU’s participation in a joint archeological project with Baylor University – known as the San Giuliano Archeological Research Project – where students can attend a summer field school in Italy to gain hands-on training in archeological methods while excavating 6thcentury BC Etruscan tombs and a medieval fortress. She hopes her Fellowship in The Explorer’s Club will open up opportunities to raise money to support these efforts.
“I would also like to get a scholarship started for students to go on archeological digs, and for some of my (AU) students to apply for that,” she said.
Just as important is the inspiration her membership provides to students – especially young women who face pressures to conform to social norms that say high adventure and exploration is the realm of an old boys club. Indeed, The Explorers Club, founded in 1904, didn’t admit its first woman until 1981. Adventurers like Amelia Earhart, Gertrude Bell and Nellie Bly never had the opportunity.
But Candace Livingston did. (As did her application sponsor, Sarah Yeomans, also a Fellow in The Explorers Club and the Director of Educational Programs at the Biblical Archeology Society.) And she’s putting it to use, planning to be active in the Piedmont Chapter of The Explorers Club, based in Columbia, South Carolina.
“That will provide a connection with other scientists, and a way to let them know what kind of research is going on at AU,” Dr. Livingston said. “I hope this will give me the opportunity to do some lecturing within The Explorers Club network, including at its headquarters in New York. That will help get AU’s name out there among those circles.
For now, Dr. Livingston is preparing for the fall term at AU. She won’t be wearing a fedora, a leather jacket or a bull whip on her hip.
But she’ll be recognized as an explorer all the same.