It is with much sadness that we announce the passing of our founder and friend, Elin Danien.  Elin passed away February 19,2019. Elin was a warm-hearted, high-spirited dynamo who made an impact upon all that had the good fortune to come in contact with her.  She was predeceased by her beloved husband, Bud, in 2013.

After a wide-ranging career, Elin enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania as a 46-year-old freshman and graduated seven years later summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. She went on to complete a Master’s and in 1998, a Ph.D. in anthropology focused on the Penn Museum’s collection of Chama pottery.  She was the founder and powerhouse coordinator behind the renowned annual Maya Weekend conference at the Penn Museum, which from 1983 through 2013 brought together international scholars, archaeologists, amateurs and others for a weekend of lectures, workshops, scholarship and camaraderie, all centered around the Maya world.  Due to the success of the first Maya Weekend, after which folks were prompted to ask why they should wait another year to work on glyph decipherment and hear quality presentations on current research, Elin and others founded the Pre-Columbian Society in 1984, which as you know from scrolling down on this page continues to offer presentations of current research and glyph decipherment workshops. 

Elin originated the Office of Special Events at the Penn Museum and was the Events Coordinator for the from 1981 to 1989.  Additionally, she edited The World of Philip and Alexander, A Symposium on Greek Life and Times (1990) and with Robert Sharer, edited New Theories on the Ancient Maya, a collection of papers presented at the 1987 Maya Weekend conference (1992). She authored Guide to the Mesoamerican Gallery at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (2002), edited Maya Folktales from the Alta Verapaz (2005) and contributed to The Maya Vase Conservation Project (Lynn Grant, 2006).

Perhaps Elin’s most lasting legacy may be through her connection with the Bread Upon the Waters Scholarship Program, which she founded in 1986.  Bread Upon the Waters provides scholarships to women over the age of 30, enabling them to complete their undergraduate degrees at Penn on a part-time basis.  To date this fund has supported over 100 scholars, many of whom have graduated with distinction. 

The Bread Upon the Waters website informs that per Elin’s wishes there will not be a funeral service. As you know, Elin graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from LPS (CGS’82, G’89, GR’98).  Inspired by her experience, she established the Bread Upon the Waters (BUTW) Scholarship Fund to help other nontraditional students attain their educational dreams.  Through Elin’s tireless efforts and the generosity of our donors, the BUTW scholarship has allowed more than 100 women the chance to forge their own educational paths at LPS. To continue her legacy, gifts may be made in her memory through

Donations in Elin’s memory may be made to her beloved Bread Upon the Waters Scholarship Program, via 1), or 2) by check made out to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania with “in memory of Elin Danien” on the memo line and mailed to:

Laura Weber

Penn Arts & Sciences Advancement Office

3600 Market Street, Suite 300

Philadelphia, PA 19104


If you have thoughts, recollections or photos of Elin that you wish shared in our next issue of The Codex - yet another publication that Elin began and orchestrated during its first few years of publication - please send a PM to our editor, Anita Fahringer.

A cocktail party/celebration of Elin’s life will take place on Wednesday, July 17th, 3-4:30 in the main lobby of Pennswood Village, her former residence, in Bucks County, PA. All are welcome to attend on what would have been Elin’s 90th birthday.

Pennswood Village, 1382 Newtown-Langhorne Road, Newtown, PA 18940

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