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Home » Campus News Latest » Obituaries » Stephen L. Wasby ’59

  Stephen L. Wasby, a resident of Eastham, Massachusetts, died on August 2, 2021. He was professor emeritus of political science at the University of Albany – SUNY.

  He was born in Boston, Massachusetts on March 16, 1937, the son of Milton Charles Wasby ’29 and Pauline Bunshaft Wasby, and grew up in Belmont.

   He graduated from Belmont High School and received his B.A. from Antioch College, Yellow Springs, Ohio, from which his father had graduated.

    A “late rebellion” led him to graduate school rather than to a law degree, and he received his M.A. (1961) and Ph.D. (1962) in political science from the University of Oregon. The law was nonetheless to be the focus of his long, active professional life, during which he held a Russell Sage Post-Doctoral Residency in Law and Social Science at the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1969-1970; taught and wrote about the legal process; and served as the director of the Law and Social Sciences Program at the National Science Foundation in 1978-1979.

   He began his teaching career at Southeast Missouri State college and Moorhead (Minn.) State College. After serving as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow, working for Rep. John Moss (D-CA) and Ralph Yarborough (D-TX), he taught at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale from 1966 until 1978. In his twenty years at the University at Albany, from which he retired in 1999, he taught about the judicial process, served formally and informally as prelaw advisor, and instructed graduate students from several departments about writing dissertation proposals.

   Steve served as a visiting professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Secretary of the Navy Fellow at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, and he taught Canadian students about American courts as visiting professor of law at University of Victoria (B.C.) and as Bissell-Fulbright Professor of Canadian American Relations at University of Toronto.

    He lectured frequently at other universities and served as the Fiscus Lecturer at Skidmore College and as the Dubach Visiting Chair at Oregon State University. After he moved to Cape Cod, for several years he was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. A prolific writer, Steve was author of many articles in professional journals and law reviews and was author, co-author, or editor of more than a dozen books, including The Supreme Court in the Federal Judicial System and Race Relations Litigation in an Age of Complexity.

   His last book, published in April 2018, was Borrowed Judges: Visitors in the U.S. Courts of Appeals. He was both sad and glad to have been able to edit for publication after their deaths, books by his Skidmore College junior colleague Ronald Fiscus, his graduate school friend Charles Sheldon, and his Vanderbilt Law School colleague Robert Belton. With a mission to help people understand how the courts function, he devoted his greatest attention-and much of his published scholarship-to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

    He was proud that lawyer friends felt he had contributed more through his writing than he would have as a lawyer. His professional activities were many. He was proud of having advocated for civil liberties; for helping train police and teaching prospective Navy officers; and, particularly, for serving as a mentor to junior faculty and advanced graduate students.

   Steve served on the Faculty Senates at both SIU and the University at Albany, SIUs Ombudsman Review Panel, and UAlbanys Institutional Review Board, and at Albany he chaired the Graduate Academic Council Committee on Academic Standing. He was the 1973 program chair of the Midwest Political Science Association and served on its council, and he was the president of the New York State Political Science Association. He was a member of the editorial boards of American Politics Quarterly, Law and Society Review, Polity, Western Legal History, and Communal Societies.

   For over 35 years, he was involved in the Justice System Journal where he served as its first Review Editor, for more than ten years as Legal Notes Editor, and as its Editor-in-Chief from 2005 through 2007. Locally he long served on — and chaired — the Zoning Board of Appeals in the Town of Eastham; served on the Charter Review Committee; and chaired a Task Force on Animal Regulations. He was a lover of baroque music and of the seacoast and was a walker of beaches, particularly in his favorite places, Cape Cod and the Oregon coast.

   Another pastime was watching trains; his New York license plate was TRNWTCHR. Combining pleasure with experience, he served on, and directed, the Heritage Grants Committee of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS).

   He is survived by his brother Roger (Sherry Herrera), of Fullerton, CA, son David (Murielle) in Nashville, TN and their children, Lauren, Ben, and Danny, and three great grandchildren; his daughter Rev. Karen Johnston, his son Robert Johnston, and a special granddaughter, Hannah Daly of Silverton, Oregon. His is also survived by multiple cats and by the many dog friends for whom he carried treats. Anyone wishing to make a contribution in Steves memory may do so to the Wasby-Johnson Award Program at the Department of Sociology, University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon.