Obituary Dr. Barbara Aswad

     Dr. Barbara Aswad, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Wayne State University, passed away on November 30, 2017 after a brief illness. Barbara was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan on January 5, 1937, daughter of Robert and Helen Black. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Michigan where she met her husband of 55 years Dr. Adnan Aswad. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan and conducted research in Arab villages and Turkish cities of the Middle East, as well as in the Arab American community in Dearborn Michigan. She published three books, one on the village she studied, one entitled, Arabic Speaking Communities in American Cities, and her most recent, Family and Gender among American Muslims in America. Among her many honors and awards for teaching and service excellence, she received Wayne State University’s Graduate Mentor Award, where she mentored and supervised the research of around two dozen Ph.D. candidates during her distinguished career. She was the Past President of the Middle East Studies Association of North America.


     In addition to her academic activities, Dr. Aswad was a pioneer in organizing ACCESS (Arab Center for Economic and Social Services) in Dearborn, Michigan, a model organization for assisting the social needs of immigrants and low-income Americans. She served on its Board of Directors for 45 years. Also in 2017 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Arab American Studies Association.


     She retired from Wayne State University in 2000, and with her husband and son, Ron, moved to Claremont, California where she was active in several volunteer organizations including the UN Association, The American Institute for Progressive Democracy, and most recently the Refugee Resettlement Team helping to resettle Syrian refugees.


     She is survived by her husband Dr. Adnan Aswad and son Ron Samir Aswad of Claremont, California, her sister Dorothy Wagner of Santa Rosa, her sister-in-law Salwa Atassi of Troy, Michigan, her nephews and nieces, Robert Wagner, Lynne Schouest, William Wagner, Joy Petty, Russ Atassi, Dr. Maha Ghazzi and Nadia Hak and grandnieces and nephews Jonathan, Christopher and Timothy Schouest; Katrina, Elizabeth and Jackson Petty; Charlotte Wagner; Firas and Maya Atassi; Deanna, Marya and Sami Ghazzi; and Leyla, Sara and Adam Hak.


     Memorials celebrating her life are planned for December 13, 2017, 5:30-7:00 pm at the Arab American National Museum in Michigan, and at the Monte Vista Unitarian Congregation, 9185 Monte Vista Avenue, Montclair, CA on December 16, 2017 at 10:00 am with reception to follow.


Memorial gifts may be directed to:

Arab American National Museum

c/o Maha Freij

ACCESS Deputy Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer

2615 Saulino Court

Dearborn, MI 48120


NAMI – Pomona Valley

3115 N. Garey Avenue

Pomona, CA 91767

Attn: Lora Illig, Executive Director


Memo line: Contribution in memory of Dr. Barbara Aswad