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In Memoriam – January 2013

The Graduate Center mourns the recent loss of five vital members of its community.

Gustavo Archilla, who worked at the Graduate Center as assistant to the registrar Elmer Lokkins until retiring in 1970, died on November 27, 2012, at the age of 96. He was described in the New York Times as an inspiration to supporters of same-sex marriage after he and Lokkins married in Canada in 2003. At that point they had lived together, without advertising their relationship, for fifty-eight years. Following the wedding, Archilla spoke out on the subject in a New York Times interview: “It was about fulfilling this desire people have to dignify what you have done all your life—to qualify it by going through the ceremony so that it has the same seriousness, the same objective that anybody getting married would be entitled to.” Lokkins survives him. Archilla was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York as a boy, taking a variety of jobs to support several younger siblings after his parents died.

Harry G. Carlson, 82, professor of theatre history and modern drama and internationally published scholar and translator of Swedish literature, died on December 22, 2012. Dr. Carlson, who retired in 2000, served as professor of theatre at Queens College, and was among the first members of the doctoral faculty in theatre when the Graduate Center program was established in 1968. A passionate teacher and educator, he will be missed by generations of students. Carlson is best known as a leading authority on the works of August Strindberg and Lars Forsell, and as a great Strindberg scholar who above all others transformed the Swedish playwright from a peculiar Swede to a foundational figure of literary modernism. His books and scholarly articles were published both in English and Swedish and were translated into many other languages. His most influential books include Strindberg and the Poetry of Myth (1982) and Out of Inferno: Strindberg’s Reawakening as an Artist (1996). He left behind a yet unpublished manuscript on August Strindberg as a painter and his relationship to French artists and art colonies of his time. Carlson’s highly praised translations (to be found in his Strindberg: Five Plays and in Modern Nordic Plays: Sweden, among other published volumes) continue to be widely read and produced by theatre companies internationally. Among many other honors, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by Umeå University, Sweden (1990), and a Guggenheim Fellowship (1966). After earning his Ph.D. at Ohio State University Carlson taught at various universities in Illinois and Georgia before coming to CUNY. Even after retiring, he remained active as a teacher until his death, lecturing on Shakespeare for enthusiastic groups of students on Long Island, most recently at the Amagansett Public Library. It is fitting to say goodbye with the words of his beloved poet, Shakespeare: “Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!” (excerpted from text written by GC theatre alumna Eszter Szalczer)

Paul Mundinger, a member of the doctoral faculty in biology, died on November 10, 2011, at age 77. Dr. Mundinger ran the largest live bird research laboratory in the United States at Queens College. He joined the doctoral faculty in biology in the early 1980s and retired from Queens in January 2011. He inspired the careers of many students, and his son, Thomas Mundinger, said that his research led to “a wider acceptance of gene-based behavior throughout the scientific community.” He studied vertebrate behavior, in particular analyzing bird calls and songs and the mechanisms of bird song learning. Using a sociobiological approach, his lab focused on the cultural evolution of song patterns, the effect of migration and dispersal on song culture change, the genetic basis of song learning predispositions, and the role of social factors on song learning, and contributed empirical evidence and theory development to the emerging field of biocultural coevolution and cognitive ethology. Mundinger received a Ph.D. in ethology from Cornell University and conducted the first of his avian field studies at their then-new Laboratory of Ornithology.

Setsuko Matsunaga Nishi, professor emerita of sociology and women’s studies at the Graduate Center, died on November 17, 2012. She was 91. Appointed to the doctoral faculty in sociology in the early 1970s, she retired from Brooklyn College, her home campus, in January 1999. Nishi  was a civil rights advocate and, as Greg Robinson and Barbara Katz Rothman wrote in the Los Angeles Japanese Daily News, Rafu Shimpo, on November 28, a “pioneering scholar of Asian Americans and multiracial relations.” Her career combined sociological research and teaching in academia with social policy consultancy for both public and private organizations, as well as volunteer community leadership. Dr. Nishi was the founding board president of the Asian American Federation, Inc., and a past chair of the New York Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Born in Los Angeles, she was an honor student at the University of Southern California when she was incarcerated in a camp for Japanese Americans; after five months, she was granted leave to study sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. She received her doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago in 1963. From 1965 until her retirement in 1999, she served as a professor of sociology at Brooklyn College and, when she joined the Graduate Center doctoral faculty in the early 1970s, initiated the first courses on Asian American studies. She also served as a faculty member in the women’s studies certificate program from 1997 to 1999. Nishi received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association for Asian American Studies in 2007, and one of Japan’s highest decorations, the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon, in June 2009. At the time of her death, Dr. Nishi was preparing for the publication of a national study comparing the long-term outcomes of Japanese Americans who left internment camps to go to the Army, to college, to segregation at Tule Lake, and to work during wartime. A memorial research fund has been established to complete the publication of this and other work.   

Lena Sorensen (Environmental Psychology, 1991), nurse, teacher, and researcher, died of heart failure on August 17, 2012, at the age of 64. For four years before her death, she served as associate professor of medical informatics in the School of Nursing at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Institute of Health Professions. According to her obituary in the Boston Globe, she “dedicated her career to finding new and ingenious ways for patients to connect with doctors and nurses, and her own gift for connecting with others was as apparent in her personal life as it was in her professional work.” Sorensen, who was born in Denmark, earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing and master’s degrees in psychiatric nursing and psychology, as well as her Ph.D. from the Graduate Center, where her dissertation was titled “Nursing and Computers: Caring in the Context of Information Technology.” She received a Fulbright award in 1997 to study at the University of Tromso in Norway, where she was a visiting professor from 1998 to 2002. She also taught at Boston University, the University of Massachusetts–Boston, the University of Colorado, and New York University, where she created and until 2009 directed the graduate program in nursing informatics.

Submitted on: JAN 9, 2013

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