William Kelso ('71G) rarely has a free moment.
As the director of archaeology at Historic Jamestowne, he spends most of time leading excavations, giving lectures and presentations, and working on books. He also directs a staff of archaeologists and curators who manage Jamestown, a historical site located on Virginia's James River that preserves the site of the first English settlement in America.
However, last December, he received a phone call that punctuated the otherwise busyness of his schedule.
An assistant to Peter Wastmacott, the British Ambassador, called him, asking if he would accept a nomination for the title of Honorary Commander of the British Empire (CBE), an award that the British government bestows upon individuals who have significantly contributed to the advancement of Great Britain.
For Kelso, who received his Ph.D from Emory University in 1971, this was a no-brainer. After taking a "few quick breaths" to collect himself, he immediately accepted the offer. Westmacott presented him with a medal in a ceremony that took place on July 13. He also received a document signed by the Queen, which detailed how his work with Historic Jamestowne allowed him to earn the title of CBE.
“In my view, this award emphasizes how significant Jamestown was in terms of the beginning of the influence of British traditions on the future development of Modern America,” said Kelso, who called his job “an opportunity of a lifetime.”
Kelso received the title for “his groundbreaking rediscovery of the original 1607 James Fort,” the original area where English settlers arrived in America and which would later become part of Historic Jamestowne, according to an Aug. 1 University press release. Prior to his rediscovery, many believed that James Fort had washed into the James River.
However, for Kelso, recognition takes a backseat to the sheer enjoyment he gleans from his work in archaeology. He said that he believes, through his research and excavation, that he was adding to what he calls the "British American Story."
“To find something so important to American history that most said was lost forever is certainly a very satisfying feeling to say the least,” said Kelso, adding that he is currently working on excavating a newfound fort to look for artifacts from the Tudor and Stuart periods. “Everyday seems thrilling to me. [This] is the opportunity of a lifetime.”
— Contact Stephanie Fang