PAL leader making mark in cultural preservation

By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer

The path for women interested in anthropology and archaeology 30 years ago was teaching – not a direction in which Deborah Cox necessarily wanted to go. More

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PAL leader making mark in cultural preservation

PBN PHOTO/MICHAEL SALERNO
FRIEND INDEED: Deborah Cox founded the nonprofit PAL – short for Public Archaeology Laboratory – in 1982 with four others. Currently its president, Cox is pictured above with Stephen Olausen, executive director at PAL.

By Patricia Daddona
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 6/9/14

The path for women interested in anthropology and archaeology 30 years ago was teaching – not a direction in which Deborah Cox necessarily wanted to go.

As a young student Cox, now 61, of Warwick, got a degree in 1974 in secondary education at Rhode Island College largely as a backup – and because it enabled her to study the two subjects she cared about most: history and anthropology.

Yet, by the time she was able to obtain her master’s degree from Brown University in anthropology in 1982, she was already on track to making her mark in the field.

Since 1977, she had been working as a staff archaeologist at Brown’s Public Archaeology Laboratory. So, when Brown decided to get out of the business of cultural-resource management in 1982, Cox and four others incorporated PAL, now located in Pawtucket, as a nonprofit. That launched what would become a continuing quest to broaden the organization’s reach.

President since then, she leads the largest organization of its type in New England.

“It was an easy decision to make,” Cox said of the path her career took. “I liked what I was doing. I saw the field as only expanding. There was a growing awareness about environmental impacts and impacts to cultural resources.”

Today, PAL has 68 employees and in 2013 earned revenue exceeding $6 million, Cox said.

“My proudest accomplishment is not necessarily the size of the business or our profitability,” she explained. “It is that PAL has been able to provide sustainable employment for 32 years to so many cultural-resource professionals. I am also proud of the amount of educational information we provide on a constant basis to the general public.”

She attributes PAL’s success to the commitment she imparts to employees to adhere to professional requirements, and success overall to being “in the right place at the right time.”

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