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Family, students, friends, and colleagues celebrate the life of Adjunct Professor of Anthropology Kathleen Forgey, Ph.D.

IU Northwest alumna, instructor passed away earlier this month

Photo courtesy of the family of Dr. Kathleen Forgey.
IU Northwest Adjunct Professor of Anthropology Kathleen Forgey, Ph.D.

Family, friends, students, and colleagues gathered at the Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton on Sunday, Nov. 21, to celebrate the life of Indiana University Northwest alumna and adjunct professor Kathleen Forgey, Ph.D. And there was much to celebrate.

One after another, the people whose lives Forgey had changed during her 55 years stood up to attest to the influence that this accomplished biological anthropologist had exerted on their lives inside and outside of the classroom. 

“She completely changed my life. She changed my academic careers and goals,” said Elisabeth Jarzen, a student at Chicago’s St. Xavier University, where Forgey also taught. “I’ll never forget her. I love her. I only knew her for a little over a year, and she impacted my life that much.

“I had never taken an anthropology class before hers,” Jarzen explained. “It was her first day teaching at St. Xavier. She walked in and gave her whole academic background, which everyone knows is very impressive, and she looked at us and told us, ‘You should all feel honored to be here, because I’m kind of a big deal.’ I have never had a professor do that before. She was right! I really felt that way. I couldn’t wait to hear what else she had to say.”  

Jarzen’s academic focus shifted from medicine to anthropology thanks to Forgey’s influence. Even after Forgey’s illness prevented her from returning to St. Xavier, she continued to counsel her student and nurture her newfound interest in the field. 

“Even though she was sick and wasn’t physically teaching at my school, she would email me and demand to know how I was doing and what my grades were and what was going on,” Jarzen said. “A few weeks ago, I told her that I was applying to volunteer at the Field Museum, and she said, ‘Good, I have a manuscript I need finished. Get to work on that.’”  

Forgey, 55, passed away earlier this month in Florida after a long battle with cancer. She had taught at IU Northwest as recently as January but stepped away from the classroom to convalesce and undergo treatment.

Forgey earned her bachelor’s degree from IU Northwest in 1995 before completing her master’s and Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1997 and 2006, respectively. She was a Biological Anthropologist and Research Associate with Chicago’s Field Museum and was nationally recognized for her pioneering research in the field of ancient DNA. Forgey was also a member of the regional Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Team.

For several years, Forgey and Dawn Sturk led student trips to Peru through their anthropological radiography group. These trips allowed students to participate in fascinating research on mummies. On Sunday, Sturck recalled Forgey as a devoted professional who commanded great esteem in her field.  

“It was amazing to see the respect she had gained from her peers, and I realized just how bright she really was,” Sturck said. “I always told her that she was the brains of our project and I was the brawn. Though her many professional contacts, she always found us new projects to keep us busy in Peru.

“Her ability to teach was phenomenal,” Sturck added. “I have never met anyone who was so natural at it. She made every project a learning experience for the students.”

Associate Professor of Anthropology Bob Mucci, Ph.D., who taught Forgey when she was a student at IU Northwest, recalled Sunday that she had vowed to follow in his footsteps …  and right through his office door.  

“She actually said to me, ‘I want your job.’ She was going to get a Ph.D. in biological anthropology and she would take over for me when I retired,” Mucci said. “In fact, what she wound up doing was getting her degree in anthropology and teaching alongside me as an adjunct. But what an adjunct she was!

“She kept telling people that I was her mentor and I was her role model, but actually she was a much better teacher than I was,” Mucci said. “And I learned so much about the relationship between teacher and student by watching her example.”

IU Northwest student Fred Mc Colly said Forgey’s excitement about her students’ potential made them want to live up to those expectations.

“My work ethic improved because I didn’t want to disappoint that enthusiasm,” he said. “She appointed herself a mentor to me on a research project at IU Northwest, and I embraced that self-appointment. I will miss her.”

Forgey’s considerable professional and educational accomplishments were surpassed only by her devotion to her family. She and husband Ken Forgey, whom she married in 1976, had four children - Ben, Dan, Krista, and David – and two grandchildren – Reese Forgey and Benjamin Forgey.  

Forgey was also survived by her father, George Helopoulos, brothers Chris, Dino and Andy Helopoulos, and sister Jenny Goselin. Chris Helopoulos recalled on Sunday that his sister had remained at the center of their family’s activities throughout her life.

“Kathy was the main instigator of a family reunion trip to Greece in 2008 for a dozen or more of us,” he said. “It was a wonderful opportunity to get to know Kathy and Ken’s grown and nearly grown children. It was just typical of Kathy, being one of the main forces that motivated us. She had often been acknowledged as the glue that bound our family together. This was her role that I will remember the most.”

Krista Forgey explained that work ethic and perseverance were qualities that her mom had instilled into her children as well as her students.  

“She never let me quit anything or give up on anything, but instead, she wanted me to learn something from the situation, or at least let it make me a stronger person,” Krista said. She added that her mother encouraged her to pursue a career that she would enjoy, not one that would necessarily make her the most money. 

“She knew that to be a happy person, you had to enjoy life," Krista said. 

The family of Dr. Kathleen Forgey suggests that remembrances be sent to: The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation for the cure of breast cancer.


Media Contact

Charles Sheid
Office of Marketing and Communications

Related Links

Obituary for Dr. Kathleen Forgey

Additional Article Photos

Photo by Christopher Sheid, Office of Marketing and Communications
Photos and mementos, including her diploma from the University of Illinois at Chicago, recall the life of Kathleen Forgey, Ph.D. This table was arranged by the Forgey family at a memorial service in her honor on Nov. 21 at the Sand Creek Country Club in Chesterton.