January 2008 Issue • Volume 36 • Issue 1

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Melvin Pollner, University of California-Los Angeles, has died at the age of 67. He died November 2 of lung cancer at UCLA Medical Center.

Stanton Wheeler, Yale Law School, who made notable studies of white-collar crime and the prison systems, died on December 7 in New Haven, CT. He was 77 and lived in Branford, CT.


Gangadharappa Nanjundappa

Gangadharappa Nanjundappa, a 35-year faculty member at California State University-Fullerton (CSUF), died September 3 at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, where he was being treated for a heart condition. He was 67.

Known throughout the Cal State Fullerton campus as Nanjun, the professor had served the past 12 years as president of the CSUF chapter of the California Faculty Association (CFA) and member of the CFA Chapter President’s Council.

“Cal State Fullerton has experienced a tremendous loss,” said CSUF President Milton A. Gordon. “In all of his activities, working in CFA and on faculty issues, Dr. Nanjundappa always exhibited an allencompassing vision and always had the university at heart. He was a wonderful colleague, and I will really miss him.”

While serving as CFA chapter president, Nanjundappa frequently traveled to Sacramento to meet with legislators, governors, and other political leaders to advocate on issues related to education and to ensure funding when state budgets were being developed. He was a statewide CFA board member from 1991 to 2001 and served for five years as CFA statewide associate vice president, south.

He was not afraid to ask the hard questions, but he always did so in a civil and collegial manner. His role models were Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mahatma Gandhi, and he kept their pictures above his desk in the CFA Office. He may have the record for the greatest number of announcements made at our Academic Senate meetings. Colleagues talk about his untiring and unceasing efforts on behalf of faculty and his willingness to be available to them, day or night, to provide encouragement, counsel and assistance.

“Although most members of the faculty equate Nanjun with CFA, which seemingly became his enduring legacy, those of us in the Sociology Department continued to look on him as a colleague and a friend,” said Dennis Berg, professor and chair of sociology. “While we know he had friends, acquaintances, and colleagues throughout the university, we in Sociology like to think that we were his true home. It was in this department that he was hired, where he taught and was tenured, and where he participated with our faculty on a regular basis. He was a valued friend and professor, and we will miss him dearly.”

Nanjundappa taught courses on human ecology, the sociology of occupations, social and population problems, social science research methods. and techniques of population analysis.

Professional organizations that Nanjun was affiliated with include the International Union for Health Promotion and Education, American Sociological Association, and Population Association of America. His numerous campus honors included awards for contributions to student leadership, to establishment of the Women’s Studies Minor Program and for outstanding service to the Associated Students Board of Directors.

Born in India, Nanjundappa immigrated to the United States in 1968 to further his university education and received his PhD in sociology from the University of Georgia.

He liked to joke that during those years, he would always carry a bottle of hot sauce with him because he found American food too bland after growing up eating spicy Indian dishes.

While his political activities often brought more attention than his research efforts, Nanjundappa was a dedicated scholar, publishing papers and participating in research projects ranging from studies of diabetics, social network ties, acculturation and health beliefs among Mexican-American clinic patients, to demographics and socio-psychological factors associated with health issues and domestic violence. His scholarly articles were published in Social Science and Medicine: An International Journal, International Migration Review and Sociological Spectrum, among others. In addition, he participated in professional meetings, traveling to France, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Norway, and throughout the United States during his academic career to chair conferences and present research findings.

Nanjundappa was active in local Democratic politics, where he served as a member of the Orange County Democratic Central Committee. He ran for the state Assembly in 2000 and 2002 as the Democratic candidate for the 72nd District.

He lived in Placentia and is survived by his daughter, Gita.

This obituary was adapted from the one written by the California State-Fullerton Media Relations Office.

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Gwynne Nettler

Gwynne Nettler died on October 5, 2007, from the ravages of age, at 94. He was an athlete, actor, bon vivant, and an important contributor to sociology and criminology.

In youth, Gwynne was an accomplished athlete, on the a water polo team, and acting as a stuntman in early Tarzan movies as well as in the original Mutiny on the Bounty.

Nettler, AB (UCLA), MA (Claremont College), PhD (Stanford), taught at several American universities, worked in industrial psychology in Mexico City, and was the senior clinical psychologist with the Nevada State Department of Health. He was also a marriage counselor—ironic, considering he married and divorced four times. He once remarked that he could teach sociology of the family by simply telling anecdotes.

Gwynne’s most unusual avocation was cat burglary, an extracurricular activity he began while teaching at Santa Barbara College. In November 1951, Time magazine acknowledged him as a “wonderful burglar…specializing in rugs, lamps and other bric-a-brac” taken from big homes. But a vengeful lover informed the police on him, and they “took off after the doc like Keystone Cops after a pie-thrower” and nabbed him while he was sunning on a beach. Time also observed that in jail, Nettler “settled down . . . to read Henry Miller’s Sunday After the War.”

Gwynne’s conviction prohibited U.S. academic appointments. Gordon Hirabayashi, head of sociology at the University of Alberta, had fought against the interment of Japanese-Americans during the War and had also been incarcerated. He knew of Nettler’s doctoral dissertation, examining Japanese stereotypes, and persuaded him to pack up his Triumph TR-3 and head north.

In 1961 Nettler published “Good Men, Bad Men, and the Perception of Reality,” in Sociometry, where he questioned the scientific value of designating deviants as “sick.” This was Gwynne’s career maker. His prominence increased with the publication of Explanations (1970), where he observed that social scientific expositions more often serve as empathetic excuses than as actual knowledge. In Explaining Crime (1974), Gwynne focused the same Socratic eye on theories of crime, and the book became a classic. His four-volume series, Criminal Careers, still constitutes some of the most vibrant and valuable writing in criminology. Finally, Boundaries of Competence, published when he was 90, reiterates Nettler’s concern that much of what passes for social science is ideology, resting on flimsy logic and even flimsier evidence. Ever consistent, Nettler produced a splendid book to cap a splendid career.

During the 1960s and 70s Gwynne attracted graduate students from far and wide, bringing international esteem to Alberta’s sociology department and helping it become the most respected social science in the University. He was honored with the E.H. Sutherland Award from the American Society of Criminology for outstanding contributions to research and theory; became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and was given the tribute of a symposium and book, Critique and Explanation.

In Edmonton, Gwynne taught huge undergraduate courses in criminology. He introduced thousands of students to empirical criminology, captivating them with his vast experience, depth of knowledge, anecdotes, and most of all, his charisma. Evaluations of his teaching were among the highest in his department. He also supervised an extraordinary number of dissertations. It was during this era that the department produced more PhDs in sociology than any other in Canada. Today, Nettler’s academic offspring occupy high government offices, the legal profession, and even a provincial Supreme Court, while also populating the halls of academe.

If a movie were to be made of Gwynne’s life, he would have to be played by a Cary Grant, or perhaps Clint Eastwood, with his edge and his love of jazz. Nettler cherished music, from opera to Ellington, and cut a dashing figure with his presence, the sports cars he drove, and especially the ladies he loved. He played such a huge role in our lives that we thought he would live forever, and in a way he will, through his intellectual descendents. But even great men are mortal. Nettler reminded us of this when he wrote “who among us knows whether he will go with a shriek or a sigh?” With Gwynne, it was easy to predict. He went the way he lived—cool—California cool. No explanation required.

A.R. Gillis, University of Toronto; Bob Silverman, Queen’s University; William R. Avison, The University of Western Ontario; Douglas Cousineau, Simon Fraser University, John Hagan, Northwestern University and American Bar Foundation, Travis Hirschi, University of Arizona, Madam Justice Carol Ross, Supreme Court of British Columbia

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Wayne Wheeler

Professor Wayne Wheeler died Sunday August 26, 2007, from heart failure. Dr. Wheeler is survived by his sister, Shirley Reed; daughters, Alice Wheeler of Seattle and Dr. Britta Wheeler of New York; his grandson Lincoln Wheeler-Powell; and his stepsons John Gulich and Rikard Svensson.

Wayne Wheeler was married to Lola E. Wheeler from 1947 to 1987, currently of Seattle, WA, and to Britt-Marie Wheeler from 1992 to 1995, of Karlskrona, Sweden.

Wayne was born to Everett and Eugenia Wheeler and raised in Crete, NE, southwest of Lincoln. The oldest of five children, he enjoyed a childhood of close-knit community, extended family, connection to the land and to the changing world.

Wayne served as a drill sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps in WWII. His mentor, Alice Bromwell Balzer, supported his intellectual curiosity in the face of his father’s discouragement, and he graduated from Doane College in 1945. Wayne received his Master’s degree in Sociology/Anthropology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 1948, a Master’s degree in Swedish history and culture from the University of Stockholm, Sweden, in 1952, and his Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology from the University of Missouri–Columbia in 1959. At the time of his death, he was Professor Emeritus at the Department of Sociology at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he taught from 1967 to 1993. Wayne loved traveling, art, photography, and music and embraced much of contemporary culture. He enjoyed friends of all ages and mentored students even after he retired. He spent much of his retirement living in Sweden, but his home was always Nebraska. Wayne was a great collector of family history, and with his sister Shirley had amassed the largest family archive in the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Dr. Wheeler’s research consisted of mapping social stratification in small town Nebraska and the immigrant communities thriving there. He published in a 1960s Nebraska Almanac on the state’s organization in demographic terms. In the mid-1970s, Wayne became interested in the historical community of Icaria, near Corning, Iowa, and was instrumental in preserving its remaining buildings and in developing the scholarship and heritage of Icaria.

Wayne was deeply involved in the Midwest Sociological Society (MSS) over many years. He was central to the 1968 meetings in Omaha. He felt it was important that the MSS have a flag and along with Todd and Alice Wheeler and Helen Barger helped to design and execute the flag that continues to hang at every meeting. He continued to attend annual meetings throughout his retirement.

Dr. Wheeler became a scholar of Tocqueville in the latter part of his career. Wayne convincingly developed a deeper Verstehen of Tocqueville’s findings than is the conventional Conservative approach. In this, he showed the inherent dangers in Tocqueville’s findings and what they reflect for the future of a democratic American society, specifically the “Tyranny of the Majority,” to name only one. Contemporary social conditions validate Tocqueville’s thoughtful warnings and Wayne’s interpretation of them.

As a mentor, Wayne Wheeler developed a living sociology where “everything is data.” He spent his life making observations of everyday life and constructing theoretical perspectives, which he used in his teaching, mentoring, and many thriving friendships. He influenced students to use qualitative research to understand their own personal interests. He felt that sociology was meaningful only if it was applied to one’s own life.

Wayne’s ability to create puns was central to his sociological inquiry and wisdom. As a student at the University of Missouri–Columbia, he invented a phrase that has come to be well known in the folklore of symbolic interaction: “There is more to the self than Mead’s The I.” In recent years, Wayne took part in many local protests against the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. He characterized the current political climate as “Fossil Fuel Fascism” and had t-shirts made with this slogan on them for the protests.

Wayne believed that “To know the world is to know the town.” This is the edict engraved on the commemorative marker at the Crete Riverside Cemetery where five generations of Wheelers are buried. Wayne believed that knowledge was the path to a better society and worked his life to encourage learning, foster awareness and understanding, and fight injustice whenever possible.

Britta B. Wheeler, The Art Institute of New York City

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