Janet M. Fitchen was a professor of anthropology at Ithaca College from 1977 until her untimely death in 1995. She gained national recognition for her research on rural poverty in the US. She was the author of numerous articles and two books: Poverty in Rural America (1981) and Endangered Spaces, Enduring Places: Change, Identity, and Survival in Rural America (1991).
In addition to her extensive research she was a distinguished teacher and was recognized with a Dana Teaching Award in 1988. In her memory, friends, and colleagues have established an endowment (The Janet Fitchen Student Development Fund) to support anthropology students at Ithaca College.
The Student Paper Prize for Anthropology, launched in 1997, is one of the many important ways that her endowment is being used to assist students. One prize is awarded annually.