H. Reid Nolte ’70

28 October 2010

Class: 1970

Major: Sociology

Residence: West Lafayette, IN

Deceased: October 17, 2010

He was born May 4, 1948 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, the son of Herbert Faust Nolte and Jean R. (Polzin) Nolte.  After graduation from Oshkosh High School, he went to Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, graduating in 1970.  In 1973 he earned the degree of master of arts from the New School for Social Research in New York City.  At the time of his death, he was a Ph.D. student in the American Studies Program at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana.  On June 12, 1971, he married Sharon Arlene Hamilton in Wheaton, Illinois; she died in 1987.  On June 25, 1988, he married Sally Ann Hastings in Chicago; she survives.  As a college student, he spent a semester in Poona, India and he lived in Tokyo, Japan from 1974 to 1976.  After an interval as president of Credit Bureau Services in Oshkosh, he worked as a stock broker at Dean Witter Reynolds and E. F. Hutton, in Dallas, Texas.  His work in urban economic development included positions as project manager for the Greencastle Development Center from 1986 to 1990, director of the Greater Sterling Development Corporation in Sterling, Illinois from 1991 to 1999, and projects manager for the City of Lafayette from 2000 to 2004.  From 2006 to 2009, he taught sociology at Ivy Tech.  He was treasurer of the International Center in West Lafayette and a member of the Board of Directors.  At St. John’s Episcopal Church in Lafayette, he served terms as treasurer of the Music Committee and member of the Endowment Committee.  His interests included cooking, gardening, orchids, investments, classical music, and dachshunds.  He is survived, in addition to his wife, by his mother Jean R. Nolte of Oshkosh, Wisconsin; aunts and uncles Natalie Polzin of Indianapolis and Mr. and Mrs. Kendall F. Purdy of Fort Worth, Texas; and Sara Neustadtl of Lyons, Colorado and five other cousins.  A service of thanksgiving for Reid’s life with Eucharist was held at St. John’s Episcopal Church and Interment of the ashes will be at Trinity Episcopal Church in Oshkosh, Wisconsin at a later time.
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Richard Hogan, Associate Professor of Sociology, Purdue University, sent this message to members of the Purdue American Studies Program on October 18.

Dear colleagues,

Last night, shortly after 10:30 p.m. Reid Nolte died, at home, after a long bout with cancer.  Some of you will remember Reid from the graduate courses he took in sociology and American studies between 2007 and 2009.  Reid was something of a nontraditional student, having taken a long break between his Master’s in sociology from the New School of Social Research and his Ph.D. work here in American studies and sociology.  He was indefatigable in his reading and writing and particularly interested in exploring the dead Germans and the classical roots of community studies in sociology.  At the same time, he was committed to an interdisciplinary approach and well read in local history.  Before he became too ill to continue his work he completed his interdisciplinary and special field exams and was preparing for prelims in sociology and the defense of his dissertation proposal, “The Body in Pestigo Bay: A Social History of Pestigo, Wisconsin, 1854-2008.”  Although he was too ill to finish this project he remained engaged until his cancer overwhelmed him during the past week.

Two weeks ago he and I were still discussing our respective timber towns and the tale of two cities that we both knew he would not live to complete.  I miss him already.

Mindy Jester, one of the co-directors of the International Center, describes Reid’s work at the International Center:

Reid started at the International Center in 2005, joining our Board of Directors  and serving as Treasurer until now.  His financial acumen was a great asset to us, especially at Food Bazaar time.  He spent hours improving the appearance of the IC yard/garden.  He trimmed overgrown bushes, vines, and tree limbs to let more sunshine into the backyard.  He crawled on his hands and knees dividing our day lilies, hostas and iris and spreading them throughout the flowerbeds.  He rescued peonies languishing in shady areas and brought them into the full sun where they could bloom again.  He removed a yucca plant that was the underground lair of a huge tribe of chipmunks.  And one day, he and I gathered some native trumpet vine to replace the alien honeysuckle on the IC’s back fence. 

Reid volunteered as a Conversation Partner with a Japanese woman whose husband worked at Subaru.   I know he enjoyed talking about Japanese culture and food as much as she enjoyed practicing her English.  His class on“Simple American Cooking” demonstrated recipes that might not have been typically American, but they were delicious and easy to prepare.  His students — all women– had a good time learning the English for ingredients and cooking terms, and they (and those of us in the office) always appreciated the resulting meal. 

After Reid began studying at Purdue and teaching at Ivy Tech, he still visited the IC to regale us with wonderful stories about his research in Wisconsin history.  He absolutely loved Wisconsin history—and sharing Wisconsin sausages and fresh cheese curds with us!

Reid was the rare person who was enthusiastic about so many things:  cooking, gardening, Jake the dachshund, Japanese culture, Wisconsin history, investing, and I’m sure there is more.  He found so many interesting things to learn about and enjoy in life—a lucky person who was never bored.  He had many challenges during the time we were lucky enough to know him, but he took on each task, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant, with a sense of humor and determination to see it through.  We will miss him.

Tithi Bhattacharya, Associate Professor of History, Purdue, offers this appreciation:

Reid: Disembedding Institutions, Embedded Friendships.

It is perhaps not an exaggeration to say that Reid was an odd man.  Reid himself certainly would have carried the epithet with pride.  He usually woke up around 4:00 am, made coffee that was ordered from a very specific online retailer and then read the news about the German stock market–in German.  The rest of the day was spent between reading census reports from obscure Wisconsin towns, thinking how the Frankfurt School was right about almost everything, making endless shopping-lists about unpronounceable meats and cheeses to buy from obscure (and heavily Germanic) Wisconsin towns—and topping it with an excruciatingly detailed and excellently cooked dinner and some quality watching of stocks and shares on television for “aesthetic pleasure”.   If this is the way most people reading this notice usually spend their days then I will shamelessly paraphrase and claim that I underestimated the “hysterical” kernels in your rational shells.   But I suspect that such is not the case.  Most of us do not live in the world as Reid did, and that is mainly because most of us do not see the world the way Reid did.  His gentle derision for his conservative small-town surroundings, his outright astonishment at the religious faith most of his fellow Americans had for the free market and how they would fight actual wars to protect it, his fierce pride in his geographies of love for India and Japan: all spoke of a man who was not really odd, but actually at odds with the world he found himself in.

The last time I saw Reid, I was preparing to make a long drive to Madison, Wisconsin.  A trip Reid and I had made on more than one occasion.  This time he was on a couch, unable to get up.  But he pulled out all his maps, snorted at the fact that I now had a GPS and made out a very long list of unpronounceable meats and cheeses that I was supposed to taste and buy.  When I came back on that Sunday he had already lost consciousness.

I will miss Reid.  I do not have many friends who can talk to me about Theodor Adorno and cantonment life in Pune in the same breath.  Or who make choking noises when the fate of capitalism comes up.  In a world that is by design “the always-same” Reid stood out considerably.  I wish more of us did.

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