Professor dies after battle with cancer


Story by Alicia Steele, Staff writer



Kit Wesler, Jesse D. Jones endowed professor of geosciences, died at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee on Monday, Jan. 4 at the age of 60 after a battle with cancer.

Wesler completed his B.A. summa cum laude in anthropology at Washington University St. Louis and completed his M.A. and Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

He came to Murray State in 1981 as a staff archaeologist. In 1983, he was appointed director of the Wickliffe Mounds Research Center (now known as Wickliffe Mounds State Historic Site) in Ballard County after it was turned over to Murray State. The site was to be developed into an academic research facility dedicated to student training, public education and preservation of the site, according to The University of Alabama Press.

During his time as director of the Wickliffe Mounds Research Center, Wesler’s team removed skeletons that had been on display for decades, performed carbon dating and DNA tests on them and reburied them to honor the requests of various Native American groups.

“I know Kit was very proud of this project,” said Bob Lochte, department of journalism and mass communications chair.

Wesler returned to Murray State in 2004 to teach and continue his research. He celebrated 30 years with Murray State in 2011, according to a social media post from the department of geosciences.

According to Wesler’s Murray State faculty biography, during his lifetime he also served as a project archaeologist for the Maryland Historical Trust and was a Fulbright Lecturer and Researcher in archeology at the University of Ibadan Nigeria and the University of the West Indies in Mona Campus, Jamaica.

He conducted archaeological field work and published more than a dozen major publications, including his book “Excavations at Wickliffe Mounds” in 2001.

According to the  JH Churchill Funeral Home Obituary, Wesler also served as a foster parent for the Humane Society of Calloway County, “willingly adopting those cats who did not find other homes.”

Wesler is survived by his wife, Renae Duncan, associate provost for undergraduate education and professor of psychology at Murray State, and one sister.

The Department of Geosciences noted on social media that a memorial celebration of Wesler’s life was held on Jan. 8. The post said, according to Duncan, “given that Dr. Wesler’s idea of dressing up meant putting on black jeans instead of blue jeans, dress is casual.”

The post also notes that expressions of sympathy can be made to the John E. and Ann N. Wesler Scholarship for Field Schools in Geosciences, 200 Heritage Hall, Murray, Kentucky 42071.