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March 28, 2005

Medical Sociologist Walter Wardwell Dies At 86

Walter Wardwell, professor emeritus of sociology, died March 14 after a long illness. He was 86.

A resident of Storrs, Wardwell joined the UConn faculty in 1949 and retired in 1985.

Arnold Dashefsky, sociology professor and head of the University’s Judaic Studies Center, says he feels “a profound loss. Walter Wardwell’s passing represents a passing of a generation who were responsible for the growth of the department after World War II.”

Mark Abrahamson, professor of sociology and department head from 1976 to 1981, describes Wardwell as “very dedicated and highly professional. He worked hard at his craft, and always found time to assist students.”

Wardwell conducted medical sociological research. Sociology professor Robert Broadhead describes him as a pioneer in the field, especially in the study of limited marginal, and ancillary medical occupations and fields. He was particularly interested in chiropractic health care, and wrote a history of the profession.

Broadhead adds that for years Wardwell “sustained a working relationship between the sociology department and UConn’s medical school and Department of Community Medicine and Health Care, which resulted in many sociology graduate students specializing in medical sociology.”

Wardwell was a founding member of the ASA’s Medical Sociology section. His many awards include the Medal de Chevalier for Arts and Letters from the Republic of France.

He graduated from Harvard University in 1940 with a major in philosophy. He began active service in the army that year, serving in North Africa and Italy during World War II. He was in the Army Reserves for many years, retiring from the military as a colonel. He earned a doctorate in sociology from Harvard in 1951.

Wardwell was on the first advisory board of Edwin O. Smith High School and the Council on Aging for the Town of Mansfield. For many years, he was active in the University Senate and on other University-wide committees.

He also enjoyed downhill skiing, languages, and music, and played the violin and piano.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Elizabeth; three children, eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A memorial service was held March 19 at Storrs Congregational Church. Memorial donations may be made to the Mansfield Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, 100 Warren Circle, Storrs, CT 06268. Visit for an online memorial guestbook.