Twenty percent of the Joe Ben and Barbara K. Wheat estate was set aside for to be used specifically and solely as an addition to the Emil W. Haury Educational Fund for Archaeology. The purpose of this gift was to honor Emil W. Haury and provide scholarships to benefit students studying in the field of anthropology at the University of Arizona. The School of Anthropology has already received a check for over $200,000 from the Estate of Barbara K. Wheat.
In 1953 Joe Ben Wheat received the Ph.D. in Anthropology the first year they were awarded at the University of Arizona. He is second on the list only due to the alphabet. The other person was Charles C. Di Peso. Wheat (1916-1997) was an archaeologist, curator, teacher, and author known for his expertise on blanket weavings and textiles of the Navajo and other Indians in Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. His research focused on Mogollon, Anasazi, Plains Paleo-Indian, and African Paleolithic archaeology. He served as president of the Society for American Archaeology for two years (1966-67) and was the first Curator of Anthropology for the University of Colorado Museum; a position in which he held for thirty-three years (1955-88). Dr. Wheat conducted many excavations, including at Yellow Jacket Canyon, the Olsen-Chubbuck Bison Kill Site, and the Jurgens Site. Dr. Wheat also taught for many years as well as contributing numerous articles to archaeological journals and the Encyclopedia Britannica.
Although Wheat was a consummate scholar, recognized internationally for his contributions to PaleoIndian and Southwestern archaeology and to textile studies, he considered one of his most important roles to be that of teacher and mentor. The field school at Yellow Jacket was an important part of his life for this reason as much as for the archaeology done there. During the 1960s and 1970s, when women still were not readily accepted into archaeological field schools, Wheat often had predominantly female crews and crew chiefs, giving opportunities to many whom would not have had them otherwise. He served on numerous graduate committees, worked with student interns in the museum, and remained accessible to his students, even after his retirement in 1986.
To the end, he provided funding to ensure that student research continued on the Yellow Jacket collections, a contribution that his widow Barbara Wheat carried on. Joe Ben Wheat passed away in 1997, at the age of 81. His ashes were scattered close to the site he began excavating with Hod Stevenson five decades before.
Barbara Kile Zernickow Wheat, 85, of Las Cruces died at her home on Saturday, April 10, 2010. In 1991, Barbara was reunited with Dr. Joe Ben Wheat whom she had known when he was stationed in Kansas while serving in the Army during WWII. They were married March 22, 1992 and lived in Boulder, Colorado, where he was a curator emeritus of anthropology at the University of Colorado Museum. Barbara and Joe Ben traveled extensively throughout the Southwest as he continued his professional activities and research on southwestern textiles. Having been a fiber artist, educator and oral history volunteer, Barbara recognized the importance of his work. She was a moving force in the posthumous publication of his book "Blanket Weaving in the Southwest" (University of Arizona Press, 2004). She also supported and contributed to the continuing development of the Joe Ben Wheat Collection at the University of Colorado, Boulder. After his death in May, 1997, Barbara moved to Las Cruces in 2000.
Barbara was a fiber artist who created many beautiful clothes and items for her home. She had a wide-range of interests and avidly read anything with an historical bent. She fostered many strong friendships, and had a special knack for bringing people of common interest together. A philanthropist and promoter of education, she unobtrusively provided the means for many to continue and enhance their chosen endeavors. Her personal motto was "Learn to listen and not just hear."