Duke Professor and Human Rights Defender, dies at 58.

Diane Michelle Nelson, born on June 5, 1963, to Donald and Lois Nelson of Oxford, OH, passed away at her home in Carrboro, NC, on April 28th, 2022, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. Diane was a graduate of Talawanda High School (1981) where she was a National Merit semifinalist. She attended Wellesley College, was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society and did a year abroad in Seville, Spain. After a brief time living in Boston working for human rights groups, she had the opportunity to do field work in Guatemala, an experience that would influence the course of her life from then on. She earned her Ph.D from Stanford University (1996) and was on the faculty of Lewis and Clark College in Portland before receiving an appointment at Duke University in Durham, NC, in 2001 where she was a tenured professor of cultural anthropology at the time of her death.

Diane spent a lifetime advocating for the rights of those less fortunate and the disenfranchised. Her research on Guatemala led to the publication of three books and scores of articles that chronicled the 36-year civil war in that country and its aftermath.

Her reputation as an accomplished scholar gained her the recognition and respect of other scholars throughout the country and the world. She was much loved by her students and was named Professor of the Year multiple times. Diane was always upbeat, selfless, enthusiastic and positive and, even in the face of her cancer diagnosis, she never let it break her spirit.

She is survived by her parents; her husband Mark Driscoll of Carrboro; her sister Erika of Oxford, OH; two brothers, Philip of Osaka, Japan and Brian of Denver; and five nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, Diane requested contributions to her favorite charities:

Maya Education Fund



Details about a celebration-of-life ceremony will be forthcoming.

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