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October 18, 2011, Volume 58, No. 08

Dr. Alterman, Psychiatry


Dr. Arthur I. Alterman, faculty member in the department of psychiatry and the Center for Studies of Addiction in the Perelman School of Medicine since 1984, passed away October 5 at age 72.

A native of Philadelphia, Dr. Alterman earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Temple University, a master’s in psychology from Brown University and a PhD in experimental psychology from George Washington University in 1970.

Dr. Alterman was a continuously funded VA scientist from 1971-1994 and a VA career scientist from 1992-1994. He was appointed professor of psychiatry in psychology in 1988. He served as the associate scientific director of the Center for Studies of Addiction from 1987-1992 and as the scientific director from 1992-2000 where he was most recently a senior scientist.

Prior to coming to Penn, he was on staff at the Coatesville VAMC and at Highland Drive VAMC.

His primary research interests included characterization of risk factors for substance abuse; delineation of antisociality in substance abusers and the relation of antisociality and other personality disorders to treatment response; and comparison of the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of treatments for cocaine dependence, alcohol dependence, and nicotine dependence.

He authored approximately 250 publications.

Dr. Alterman is survived by his wife, Joan; and son, David.

Donations may be made to Jewish Family and Children’s Service of Greater Philadelphia, 2100 Arch St., Fifth Floor, Philadelphia, PA 19103.


Dr. Birdsall, Presbyterian Medical Center

Dr. Thomas M. Birdsall, former chief of urology at the Presbyterian Medical Center, passed away September 27 at age 87.

Raised in Philadelphia, Dr. Birdsall earned his bachelor’s degree from Haverford College and his medical degree from Penn in 1948.

After being discharged from the Korean War, Dr. Birdsall joined the staff at Presbyterian Hospital, now Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. He was appointed a clinical associate in urology in 1976. Dr. Birdsall was also on staff at Riddle Memorial Hospital in Media and Delaware County Memorial Hospital. He retired in 1989 but remained on staff at the Delaware County Memorial Hospital until the mid-1990s.

Dr. Birdsall had been a member of the American Urologic Association and past president of the Doctors Golf Association.

Dr. Birdsall is survived by his wife, Elizabeth; daughters, Mary Raiken, Elizabeth Johnson, Sandra Atteberry and Susan Dingle; sons, Thomas Jr. and Christopher; 12 grandchildren; and 10 great-grandchildren.

Contributions may be made to either the Memorial Fund of the First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore, 5 W. Montgomery Ave., Ardmore, PA 19003 or Main Line Meals on Wheels, 235 Lancaster Ave., Devon, PA 19333.


Dr. Possehl, Anthropology


Dr. Gregory L. Possehl, professor emeritus of anthropology in the School of Arts and Sciences and curator emeritus of the Asian collections at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, passed away on October 8 at age 70.

Dr. Possehl received his BA from the University of Washington in 1964, his MA from the University of Washington in 1967, and his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1974, all in anthropology.

He joined the South Asian regional studies department at Penn in 1973. He served as associate director of the University Museum from 1981 to 1992. In 1993, he transferred to the department of anthropology and served as chair from 1994 to 2001. He was an Overseas Fellow at Churchill College, University of Cambridge. In 2004, Dr. Possehl was named an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Archaeological Society in recognition of his life-long contribution to Indian archaeology. Since its inception, Dr. Possehl was a member of the Committee on Manufacturer Responsibility, serving as chair for several years. He retired in 2007 but continued to teach.

Dr. Possehl was a leading expert on the rise of the Indus civilization in India and Pakistan. His research projects included the exploration of the Ghelo and Kalubhar Valleys in the state of Gujarat and the excavations of the Sorath Harappan sites of Oriyo Timbo, Babar Kot and Rojdi. The excavations at Rojdi resulted in the definition of the Sorath Harappan as a distinct regional manifestation of the Harappan civilization and advanced understanding of its transformation at the beginning of the second millennium BC. In 2003 he received the Outstanding Academic Book Award from Choice magazine for Indus Civilization: A Contemporary Perspective.

Dr. Possehl and his collaborator Dr. Vasant Shinde of Deccan College conducted four seasons of excavations at Gilund in Rajasthan beginning in 1999. In the 2002-2003 field season, he discovered a bin filled with more than 100 seal impressions dating to 2,100-1,700 BC. The existence of these seals, and their particular styles, offered surprising new evidence for the apparent complexity of this non-literate, late and post-Indus culture.

In January 2007, Dr. Possehl initiated new excavations at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Bat in the Sultanate of Oman. The site consists of the largest and best preserved Bronze Age cemetery in the region as well as a series of 3rd millennium habitation areas centered around large, circular structures or “towers.” The project involves both the archaeological survey of Bronze Age settlement areas and focused excavations at Bronze Age sites to understand their relationships to the Bat urban center. This work is being carried on by the Deputy Director, Dr. Christopher Thornton, one of his recent doctoral students.

Dr. Possehl is survived by his son, Michael; his daughter, Christine; his grandchildren, Lisa, Grant and Quinton; his brother, Jim; and his sister, Barbara.

The department of anthropology is planning a memorial service. Details will be published in Almanac.










To Report A Death

Almanac appreciates being informed of the deaths of current and former faculty and staff members, students, and other members of the University community.

However, notices of alumni deaths should be directed to the Alumni Records Office at Room 545, Franklin Building, (215) 898-8136 or e-mail record@ben.dev.upenn.edu.


Almanac - October 18, 2011, Volume 58, No. 08