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John Wardwell, Ph.D. ’73 from Feb. 1999 Footnotes

John Wardwell, demographer and a professor of sociology and rural sociology at Washington State University died of lung cancer, September 20, 1998, in Pullman, Washington. He was 56.

A native of North Dakota, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in 1964 from North Dakota State University, and in 1995 studied at Goethe Universitat in Frankfurt under a Fulbright Fellowship. In 1969 he was awarded a Masters degree from the University of Arizona, and in 1973, a PhD in demography and sociology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He then joined the faculty at Washington State University.

Wardwell is recognized for his extensive work on understanding the dynamics of rural vs. urban growth. An

influential article he published in Rural Sociology in 1976 was recognized as the first theoretical attempt to explain the renewal of growth in rural United States after many decades of steady decline. It set the pattern for his later work of specifying and elucidating linkages between sociology, demography, human ecology and development.


From 1973 to the present he was influential in the efforts of a USDA sponsored Western Regional Research Committee in monitoring and understanding rural demographic changes in the United States, serving several times as chair. The results of this committee’s work, and John’s personal commitment to understanding the factors influencing change, are published in a series of three important volumes which he co-edited, New Directions in Urban-Rural Migration (1980, with David Brown), Society, Community and Migration (1992, with Patrick Jobes and William Stinner), and Population Change in the Rural West 1975-1990 (1997 with

James Copp). He has left us with an important legacy of demographic understanding. For 25 years Wardwell taught most of the undergraduate and graduate demography courses offered at Washington State University through the Department of Sociology. He earned a well deserved reputation for filling the margins of student papers with neatly scripted comments that pushed them to do their best work. And, his efforts to mentor students went well beyond the traditional classroom boundaries.

Even the challenges of white-water rafting and downhill skiing were viewed as opportunities to teach and

learn. In recognition of his contributions to the education of a generation students, a memorial fund to support the “John Wardwell Demography Award” has been established by the Departments of Sociology and Rural Sociology. It will recognize outstanding demographic accomplishments by future Washington State University students who study demographic issues. Contributions to this fund are welcomed and appreciated. Inquiries or contributions can be sent to either Annabelle Cook, Chair of Rural Sociology, or Eugene Rosa, Chair of Sociology at Washington State University.

Wardwell is survived by his wife of 34 years, Jean, a son, Joseph, and foster son, Michael.