Dr. Mary Ellen Lane, President and former Chair of CKS, died on November 3, 2019, after a brave fight with cancer. The Center for Khmer Studies would not be here today were it not for Mary Ellen, who recognized that CKS could become an American Overseas Research Center (AORC) and thus secure its survival. As the founder and Director of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers (CAORC), Mary Ellen shepherded CKS from what was a struggling independent institution to a vibrant organization that became the first AORC in Southeast Asia and remains the key institution that supports higher education in Cambodia.
When Mary Ellen retired in 2014, she fielded many requests to sit on boards of directors, but she chose to join the CKS Board because of her commitment to our mission. She guided CKS through a challenging time of transition from its founding President and Chair and a retiring Director, and was responsible for building up a Board that includes Cambodian-American scholars, not simply American scholars, while fostering a new sense of cooperation and mission among CKS officers.
Mary Ellen was an Egyptologist by training and spent many years in the Middle East. Receiving her doctorate in Egyptology from the Sorbonne in Paris, Mary Ellen’s training and scholarship spanned several continents. A North Carolinian by birth, Mary Ellen’s southern charm and magnetic charisma infused all of her personal and professional interactions. Her incredible sense of humor belied the fact that she was often the smartest person in any room she happened to be in.
We at CKS will continue to mourn Mary Ellen as we seek to fill the enormous hole that her passing has created. We will continue to celebrate her life and her commitment to CKS, which remained her passion through her illness. Her life is a challenge to us all to do our very best in the pursuit of higher education as a necessity and not as a luxury. Rest in peace, our dear, dear friend.
If you wish, you may make a donation in memory of Dr. Mary Ellen Lane. Thank you.
– Prof. Andrew Mertha