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Friday memorial set for W. Warren Wagar

By : Katie Ellis

A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m., Friday, in the Casadesus Recital Hall in the Fine Arts building to honor the life of W. Warren Wagar, distinguished teaching professor emeritus of history. Wagar died on Nov. 16 at the age of 72.

Wagar joined Binghamton University’s faculty in 1971 after teaching at Wellesley College and the University of New Mexico. The author of 18 books and the first American elected to serve as vice president of the H.G. Wells Society, Wagar was an “accommodating, gracious and helpful” colleague according to Melvyn Dubofsky, Bartle distinguished professor of history, who came to Binghamton the same year Wagar arrived.

Richard Trexler, another Bartle distinguished professor in the department, was hired by Wagar and said his friend was known as an “absolutely reliable colleague. His views were very balanced and he was 150 percent fair in everything,” Trexler said. “In department meetings he usually held back, but when he said something, it was always to the point, always forceful and always well thought out.”

Wagar was also a big thinker and “not pedestrian in any way,” said Trexler. “When he retired in 2002, he simply retired. He set himself up in his office at home and did this new book on Wells published just recently by the Wesleyan University Press. (H.G. Wells: Traversing Time, 2004). His lifelong interest was H.G. Wells’ work.”

Trexler and Wagar shared a mutual love of classical music. “He was much better informed than I,” said Trexler. “His interests were more limited to the romantic period. He had an enormous collection of records that he converted to CD from vinyl.”

Honored with the University and Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1985, Wagar relished his role as a teacher, said colleagues. “Though he was particularly well known internationally as a futurologist and was very prominent and well known around the world, he taught large undergraduate classes here. Students packed his History of the Future course,” said Dubofsky.

“He had a presence and when he lectured, he was a very careful lecturer and superb teacher,” said Trexler. “However, one of his big letdowns in life was that he had gone into the history of the future, and he had developed this course which was enormously popular, but he had developed it with the thinking that it would become a subset of the field and he was disappointed that it didn’t really go anyplace.”

Wagar served the University in a number of capacities – as department chair, as a vice chair for the Faculty Senate and as director of undergraduate studies for the history department. Among his professional affiliations, he served on the advisory boards for Utopian Studies, 21st Century Studies, Alternative Futures: The Journal of Utopian Studies and as a member of the editorial board of Futures Research Quarterly.

A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Wagar earned his master’s degree at Indiana University and his doctorate at Yale University.

Wagar is survived by his wife, Dorothy, and four children.
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Last Updated: 10/14/08