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Retired ISU professor Jim Skibo dies after dive in Wisconsin

Retired Illinois State University professor Jim Skibo died Friday in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin Historical Society
Retired Illinois State University professor Jim Skibo died Friday in Wisconsin.

Family, friends and former colleagues are mourning the loss of retired Illinois State University professor and archaeologist Jim Skibo, who died after a dive in Wisconsin.

Skibo, 63, became Wisconsin’s state archaeologist after his retirement from ISU in 2018. He died Friday after being recovered from Lake Mendota while on a routine work-up dive preparing for the maritime archaeology season, according to a Facebook post from the Wisconsin Historical Society. Skibo “was a certified diver and qualified for the depth of the dive as well as the equipment being used,” the Historical Society said.

Skibo joined ISU in 1992 and spent nearly three decades in Normal, eventually earning the rank of Distinguished Professor in 2012 — the university’s highest faculty honor. He also served as chair of ISU’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

“Jim was a highly regarded archaeologist in his field, focusing on the production and use of ceramics as well as the theory of archaeology, ethnoarchaeology and the archaeology of the Great Lakes region. He had a deep passion for social justice, the environment, and the value of a liberal arts education and he eagerly shared those passions with everyone he encountered. We are all better people in so many ways for having Jim in our lives, he will be deeply missed by many near and far,” the Department of Sociology and Anthropology said on Facebook.

In his role in Wisconsin, Skibo oversaw the state’s 36,000 archaeological sites and helped advance archaeological research across the state.

Skibo is survived by his wife, Becky, and their children, and his mother and sisters. Read his full obituary or offer online condolences.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.
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