A former director who led Kansas University’s Natural History Museum into the modern era has died at age 83.
Philip S. Humphrey, who directed the museum from 1967 until 1995, died in his sleep Friday morning.
Leonard Krishtalka, the current director of the museum who took over from Humphrey, remembered his friend as an important contributor in modernizing the museum for KU.
“He was a consummate friend and a fantastic mentor,” Krishtalka said.
He recalled Humphrey’s accomplishments during his tenure. He worked to expand public access to the museum by translating its discoveries and bringing in school children.
Saying that the study of human cultures deserved separate status from the study of other organisms, Humphrey negotiated the segregation of anthropology from the Natural History Museum and with it a move across the street to a new museum in Spooner Hall.
Humphrey also helped shepherd the museum into a new information age, integrating the information collected with new technologies. Today, the museum remains a leader in the bioinformatics field, Krishtalka said.
After his retirement, Humphrey continued to teach courses at KU in museum management and helped train many future leaders.
He did it all while insisting on civility and on taking the high road in an organization, Krishtalka said, recalling an instance where Humphrey intervened after hearing a staff member berating an administrative assistant.
He told the staffer that such conduct was completely out of line and that if it happened again he would be dismissed.
“Later that afternoon, a bouquet of flowers arrived with a note of apology,” Krishtalka said.
Services will be handled by the Warren-McElwain Mortuary.