Law and Criminology Professor Marvin Wolfgang led his field. World-renowned Law and Criminology Professor Marvin Wolfgang, a popular instructor whom an academic journal once described as "the most influential criminologist in the English-speaking world," died Sunday at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania after a long bout with pancreatic cancer. He was 73. Wolfgang, the director of the University's Sellin Center for Studies in Criminology and Criminal Law, had been at Penn for nearly 46 years. The longtime University City resident taught introductory courses in criminology and white-collar crime to generations of undergraduates, as well as advanced graduate-level seminars in criminology research and theory. Wolfgang -- who received both his master's degree and his doctorate from Penn -- published more than 200 articles and 35 books on criminology. His many honors include two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Prize and the American Society of Criminology's prestigious August Vollmer Research Award. Additionally, he was the first recipient of his namesake prize, the Wolfgang Award for Distinguished Achievement in Criminology, an honor considered in the field to be the "Nobel Prize of Criminology." Colleagues and students are mourning Wolfgang's death. Wolfgang was a "serious scholar with a wide breadth of interests, a wonderful and caring colleague and a mentor to literally hundreds of graduate students," Legal Studies Professor Bill Laufer said. Both Laufer and University of Southern California Criminology Professor Malcolm Klein described Wolfgang as the foremost criminologist in the world, and Laufer stressed that the field would "miss him terribly." Wolfgang stopped teaching more than two months ago due to his illness, according to College freshman Melissa Wong, who is enrolled in his introductory course on criminology. "He was great," she said. "We could tell that he was tired, but he never lost his enthusiasm for the incredibly interesting subject." Until his death, Wolfgang was working on a 10-year study of juvenile delinquency in China. He was a strong opponent of the death penalty, and his research findings were used the U.S. Supreme Court's 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision, which abolished the death penalty nationwide. The death penalty was reinstated in 1977. He was also the first to suggest that some crimes are caused by the victims, and developed a now-common procedure to measure the seriousness of a crime, according to Klein. "There's going to be a lot of wailing going on across the country because a lot of students are indebted to him," Klein said. "So in that sense, his legacy is going to last for generations." During Wolfgang's long tenure at the University, the Criminology department grew from a small division of the Sociology Department to an invaluable subsection of the Wharton School's Legal Studies Department. He also held a joint appointment at the Law School, where his seminars tackled the topic of criminal justice. "He literally shaped the boundaries of criminology, not only as a quantitative discipline but as a theoretical discipline," Laufer explained. Wolfgang served as the president of both the American Academy of Political and Social Science and the American Society of Criminology, and was a consultant on the President's Commission on Law Enforcement and Justice in 1994. Wolfgang -- born in Millersburg, Pa., in 1924 --Eis survived by his wife Lenora, a French professor at Lehigh University, his children Karen and Nina and two grandchildren. He lived on the 4100 block of Locust Street until his death.Comments powered by Disqus
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