Written by Frederick M. Asher
WALTER SPINK IS, of course, best known for his work on Ajanta. He's recently referred to himself as obsessed by Ajanta, something that those who know him will agree is not far from the mark. But Walter's impact on our field extends far beyond Ajanta, to something that too few know.
BACK in the 1960s, the American Committee for South Asian Art (ACSAA), was just that: a committee. Its responsibility was policy advice for what was then the American Academy of Banaras, a visionary establishment that sought to bring South Asia what our colleagues working the Mediterranean had in the American Academy of Rome, the American Schools of Classical Studies, and the American Schools of Oriental Research. In large measure it achieved that goal, though now as part of the American Institute of Indian Studies. That transfer to AIIS left ACSAA an organization without a purpose.
It so happened, however, that Walter was president of ACSAA at the time, and it's hard to imagine Walter sitting by and allowing the organization to remain without direction. Under his leadership, then, ACSAA became a membership organization, the professional association of our field. Its newsletter, biennial meetings and symposia, and even its expanded perspective as represented in its new name (American Council for Southern Asian Art) all may be traced to Walter's leadership. ACSAA thrives today because of Walter's vision, and we, his beneficiaries, are much indebted to him.