The passing of Mary Lynn Kennedy on August 19, 2023, touched many of us who were her colleagues here at the Arkansas Archeological Survey with sadness but also fond memories. Mary Lynn retired from the Survey back in 2006, after 31 years as editor for the publications program. During those 31 years she brought to print 52 volumes of the ARAS Research Series, two Popular Series books, 11 Technical Papers, and 32 Research Reports (the RR series is now defunct). In addition, she worked with Jane Kellett to help produce uncounted maps and graphics for professional presentations and articles, posters for meetings and for Archeology Week, educational flyers and handouts, a catalog for the publications program, and various pamphlets. By her own account, her most challenging work came with the multivolume regional overviews nicknamed SWDO and CNPO, funded by contracts with the US Army Corps of Engineers (more on that below). Another challenge was Research Series 44, Standards for Data Collection from Human Skeletal Remains, published in 1994 (and still available after many printings). This book was widely adopted as a college text, providing substantial financial security to the self-funded publications program. Important for the production of this large number of publications is that Mary Lynn kept up with changes in technology over the years. More on that in the following section, contributed by Jane Kellett, former photographer and graphic artist for the Survey, and Mary Lynn’s colleague for many years.
Mary Lynn Kennedy: Memorial to a Friend and Colleague
By Jane Kellett
For over three decades Mary Lynn’s career aimed to fulfill the Survey’s charter mission: to make Arkansas’s archeological fieldwork, research, contract, and grant reports available to the public and professionals through scholarly publications. She successfully adapted to the challenges of the Survey and the ever evolving world of publishing. Mary Lynn “survived” (her word) four directors, three Sponsored Research Program coordinators, and numerous station archeologists. She read, edited, transcribed, and formatted hundreds of draft reports.
Her first office was a green-tiled converted dormitory bathroom without windows in Hotz Hall, where the Survey at that time shared quarters with the Department of Anthropology and the University of Arkansas Museum. This tiny, uncomfortable room stored boxes of books stacked to the ceiling, even in the lavatory stalls. She had only space for a desk, a chair, and a manual typewriter. She often couldn’t breath and would move to the hallway to read. Her frustrations grew with each publication’s lack of print quality. At that time state agencies were required to use the Arkansas prison systems for printing. She relieved her frustrations by roller-skating up and down the sidewalks in front of Hotz Hall.
In the early 1980s the Survey moved to West Avenue Annex. Mary Lynn was given a large office with a sitting area, a separate book storage room, a private desk cubical, and lots of shelves. Inspired, she persuaded more allotment for two new IBM Selectric typewriters with replaceable daisy wheel fonts and a correction key for herself and her assistant. The state also approved printing at the nearest state-funded press, such as campus printing services. An additional advantage to West Avenue was that she could roller-skate to and from work. She was in a good space. Then came SWDO (the Southwest Division Overview series) and CNPO (the Central and Northern Plains Overview series) — a combined 5,263 finished pages, by 19 plus authors, involving roughly 50 drafts, and a deadline. Corrections in those days were a grueling cut-and-tape process of 12pt type. From her cubical one could hear exclamations and moans reacting to her pet peeves: run on sentences, jargon, citations and references without authors. It was excruciating. She persevered and finished it, exhausted.
Then came the 1990s with computer generated type offering search-and-correct, auto page numbering, and table options. Mary Lynn quickly transitioned and elevated the publications program books to design and refine. She fell in love with Helvetica typeface, initiated ISBN cataloging, reinstated peer reviews, installed an in-house publications committee, and purchased desktop publishing software and graphic cards using funds from the publications sales account. Each of these accomplishments were cause for celebration at Rogers Rec, just two blocks away on Dickson Street, with her partners in crime, Russel Scheibel and Norma Hoffrichter. The results are the many professional manuscripts that have elevated the Survey’s standing in the field of academics and public archeology.
Being a reader of many subjects, well-traveled, and married to a respected historian — the late Tom Kennedy, who served on the faculty of the History Department at the University of Arkansas — Mary Lynn could find common ground with scores of different people. She was intelligent, insightful, genuine, egalitarian, tenacious, worldly, but most of all devoted to her family, friends, and community. Those who knew her can imagine that her paradise will be a kind of library. She has influenced many and will be missed by all.
Memories of Mary Lynn Kennedy
By Deborah Sabo
Mary Lynn was a dynamo. A tiny, petite woman, she was always bursting with energy, maybe sometimes seeming a little scattered because she was doing and thinking about several things at once. But those things got done. She dressed for comfort (and thankfully we had a laid-back workplace) in a t-shirt or blouse with jeans and sneakers, unadorned by jewelry. She didn’t use makeup and wore her long, slightly wavy gray hair natural in a “hippie style” down her back or in a ponytail. She was a woman I could relate to. Mary talked fast. Ideas, requests, encouragement, plans, complaints — all tumbled out of her. Most people have speech habits (“like,” “you know”). Mary Lynn’s was “you know what I mean?” And often enough I did know what she meant. If I could manage to keep up with her, that is.
I was hired at the Arkansas Archeological Survey (ARAS) in 1999 and thus became Mary Lynn’s colleague during the last several years of her employment. But I’d known her already for some time, since my husband George Sabo became station archeologist at UA Fayetteville in 1979. When Mary Lynn retired in 2006, she had served as technical and production editor for the ARAS publications program for 80% of the Survey’s then-existence (a brief history of the ARAS publications program can be found here). As a small academic publisher, ARAS relied on the dedication and fortitude of a tiny staff to put out the books that we regarded as part of the organization’s mission to share our knowledge with various audiences. But Mary Lynn’s achievements encompassed much more than preparing works for publication.
Jane Kellett has outlined her single-handed navigation of technological changes, ISBN, the Library of Congress CIP program and copyright office requirements, developing author agreements, managing sales and marketing. There were also attempts to redevelop the ARAS annual report (which stalled, but not for lack of trying), and innumerable smaller projects like pamphlets and flyers, posters, conference materials, and so on. Through the years she mastered use of several software applications for typesetting and page layout, working closely with Jane Kellett (photographer and artist). Mary Lynn advocated for a Survey-wide publications committee, which sadly waxed and waned during her tenure. She weathered organizational changes at the Survey’s coordinating office, which sometimes complicated her efforts, but never flagged in her main purpose — to get the books out.
Along with her husband Tom, Mary Lynn was also known for her friendship and hospitality. For many years the Kennedys hosted big St. Patrick’s Day parties, sometimes in their home but more often at a local venue, with live music from The Mudlarks, a local folk and Irish music band. (I gave myself shin splints dancing jigs at the party one year.) She loved kids and volunteered to babysit mine when I was a new mom in a place where I didn’t yet know many people, far from home and from my own family.
Jane Kellett mentioned Mary Lynn’s ability to relate to different kinds of people. In my case, she offered camaraderie and validation, the kind of thing often now expressed as being “seen.” I was a person with an anthropology graduate degree and varied archeological experience, but now working in a not-strictly-archeological position, as a publications editor. Occasionally I had felt a bit sidelined. But Mary Lynn shared with me her enthusiasm to do a job that the organization needed and valued — an enthusiasm I knew from my previous 18 years working with Anthropology Department faculty on editorships of two journals. Like her, I had taught myself the basics — and then the specialty skills — and after she retired, I eventually stepped into her role as the Survey’s editor. I remember that first day I moved into her old office. She had transformed its quirky creative messiness to neat-as-a-pin organization, making things ready for her successor.
The Survey was lucky to have Mary Lynn Kennedy for 31 years, and I will always feel grateful to have known her.
Per the family’s request: Donations can be made to Lois Bryant c/o Lincoln School Memorial Plaque, P.O. Box 793, Fayetteville, AR 72702. Mary Lynn felt strongly that a historical marker to commemorate the Lincoln School, South Willow Ave., was important so future generations are reminded never to forget or repeat the history of segregation and oppression in Fayetteville.