Russell Langworthy

10 July 2017
Russell Langworthy
Russell Langworthy

Russell Langworthy died on July 1st at a hospice center in Rhode Island at the age of 92. Russ taught Sociology and Anthropology at Carleton from 1953 until 1986. His work focused on economic and social development, including land tenure systems, especially in India, Italy, and later in Ukraine and the Baltic countries.

Russell’s interest in international study and travel began with his heroic work in an intelligence unit during WWII. But his father’s work as a thresherman in western New York launched Russell’s hobby of restoring antique tractors, an interest that was amplified by the people and agricultural equipment on Machinery Hill at the Minnesota State Fair. 

A more complete obituary can be found on the Monahan Drabble Sherman Funeral Home website.

A funeral service will be held on August 9th in Providence, R.I., with a private burial in Northfield in the fall.

In lieu of flowers, memorials are preferred to the scholarship fund of Alfred University. Gifts can be made to Alfred University and sent to University Relations, 1 Saxon Drive, Alfred, NY 14802. Please put Russell’s name in the memo line on the check.

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  • 2017-07-11 20:02:28
    Bob Tisdale

    To the Langworthy Family:

    My wife Dagmar and I have fond memories of Russ--many energetic conversations and wisdom- sharing sessions.  When we resided in Italy's Lido di Camaiorie in 1993, we learned that Russ was in Siena, so we called and arranged to meet there.  He found us a great B&B--actually a good room over a bar--and the next day took us on a tour of the country near Siena, all the while giving us very welcome and entertaining comments about the passing sights.  He took us to see the sword in the stone allegedly thrust there by San Galgano and as we left that shrine he spotted a tracked vehicle plowing a nearby field.  Soon we arrived at a small church with an apse of particular interest.  On seeing that he exclaimed, "a two-fer"!  His day was made, and so was ours.

    We have not seen Russ in many years and have missed his acerbic wit and friendship.  We mourn that all his family and friends have lost a unique and wonderful man.

    Bob Tisdale, Carleton English prof. emeritus

  • 2017-07-20 13:47:58
    Dirk VanDerwerker '78 P'20

    Perhaps a most UN-likely recollection of Russell Langworthy, this remembrance is written by an alum who never knew him.  In the spirit of full disclosure, I never enrolled in any class of his nor did we ever engage each other in conversation.

    How appropriate, then, that Mr. Langworthy's obituary published in the July 13, 2017, Minneapolis StarTribune reminded me of what did NOT happen 40 years ago.  A single made comment made by him in 1977 likely resulted in John "Jack" R. Coleman NOT becoming Carleton's 7th president and, instead, Robert Edwards went on to serve in that role apparently with great success.

    By way of background, Mr. Coleman that spring was the outgoing president of Haverford College.  He announced his forthcoming resignation after the trustees of that Pennsylvania college voted against Mr. Coleman's push to make Haverford fully co-educational.  Haverford did make the transition three years later.

    Earlier, in 1974, I was completely enthralled by Mr. Coleman's just-published book "Blue Collar Journal: A College President's Sabbatical" when I read it the summer prior to my Carleton freshman-orientation week.  Mr. Coleman -- a labor economist, Haverford president and chairman of Philadelphia's Federal Reserve Bank -- wrote about the blue-collar challenges he faced digging ditches in Atlanta, making short-order sandwiches at Boston's Union Oyster House and working as a garbage collector in Maryland.  This sabbatical of his I credit as the inspiration for my own 1981 journalism M.A.-degree project, writing and photographing a decrepit rescue mission in Des Moines.

    I handwrote a letter to Mr. Coleman during winter trimester 1977, telling him that Carleton was searching for a new president following Howard Swearer's departure to Brown University, asking that he apply.  After all, Carleton had always been co-ed!  He replied that Haverford's then-provost was under consideration by Carleton and that he would not apply while his provost remained in the running.  Ultimately, Carleton's presidential search committee dropped Haverford's provost from its candidate list, and Mr. Coleman apparently cited my student-written invite as a reason he felt encouraged to face the challenge of another college presidency.  He and Robert Edwards became Carleton's two presidential-candidate finalists.

    Both Mr. Edwards and Mr. Coleman separately visited campus for a few days as presidential finalists, and the search committee now tagged me as one of the college-community members to sit in on the candidate question-and-answer sessions held at Nutting House.  I obviously favored Mr. Coleman (code-named "Garbage Man" by the search committee), and I believe the other students did as well.

    But Mr. Langworthy proved too much for Mr. Coleman.  A student serving on the search committee later told me that Mr. Langworthy -- during a faculty/candidate get-together -- accused Mr. Coleman of "speaking in platitudes."  Mr. Coleman decided he had had enough of dealing with similar faculty behaviors, withdrawing himself as a finalist.  The rest is history.

    Mr. Coleman soon accepted the job of heading the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation in New York City, where I briefly met him at his apartment two years later.  My wife and I, with our first child as a toddler, also visited him in 1995 at the country in he owned and operated in Vermont. Mr. Coleman died this past September at age 95.

    Robert Edwards, fortunately, still lives and serves as president emeritus. Might he reveal to the college community the code name he was given by the presidential search committee?  I've been wondering about that for 40 years. 




  • 2017-08-12 12:32:44
    Carol DeBoer-Langworthy

    This is hilarious! Thank you for this portrait of my late husband. At the reception following his funeral this past Wednesday, his elder son regaled us all with tales of his father, the "contrarian." Also nice to know that Carleton grads write well.


  • 2017-08-31 15:31:41
    Bardwell Smith

    Charlotte and I were deeply sorry to learn about Russ’s passing. Russ was among the first faculty members I met upon arriving at Carleton in 1960. At our first meeting he let me know that he'd been a graduate school reader of my papers when I was a Sociology major at Yale. As a colleague of his for many years at Carleton, we developed a genuine camaraderie and respect for each other even during the hectic years of student protest in which we usually agreed about the central issues but sometimes differed with regard to how these should be handled. Respect and affection in our relationship, however, never wavered. One central issue was the need to diversify the curriculum and therefore the faculty in the areas of cross-cultural studies and in particular course work and off-campus studies in Asia. Both he and I helped to create and develop emphases in South Asia—both India and Sri Lanka. Russ was among the best conversationalists I have ever known. He was in many ways incredibly gifted in learning and speaking languages—not only French, Italian and Spanish, but also in later years Hindi. This included his gesticulations which embellished his ability to communicate. In the best sense of the word, Russ was a bon vivant. He had a zest for life, and this was contagious in his collegiality with people from different backgrounds. While a minor trait among his many attributes, Russ also presented even in his appearance a dapper style. In a certain sense, he was a "complete angler". One could on and on, and others will, but I felt very close to this lively, engaging, well-read, and perceptive human being. In many ways, he helped to shape the thinking and values of a large circle of people in a number of societies. Indeed, I loved the man and was excited a year or ao ago to hear that he might move back to Northfield and even live at Village on the Cannon, in which many retirees from both colleges in Northfield have decided to settle. He and Carol would have added a great deal to the already stimulating mix that exists at this location. Our sympathies, of course, to you, Carol, as well as to Mark and Peter. How he will be missed. Bardwell and Charlotte Smith

  • 2020-07-28 18:34:17
    Jim Anthony ‘71

    Mr. Langworthy introduced me to the concepts of sociology and anthropology in my first course on these fields of study. I have have carried what I learned from him for more than 50 years. When the Human Genome Mapping Project was launched, I drew upon the concepts I had learned from him, and with my colleagues in Australia and the US, the complementary Human Envirome Mapping Project emerged. If you Google ‘Human Envirome,’ most of the hits will be mis-spellings of ‘environment’ (e.g., ‘enviroment’), but someone kindly created a Wikipedia page about the ‘Human Envirome’ and you might learn about the idea in that space. But back to Mr. Langworthy and his influence on my career. I have been lucky to be asked to help Ministries of Health in many parts of the world, especially in the western hemisphere, but also out in the western Pacific, and in India, and more recently in the republics that were formed when the USSR broke up (Czech Republic and Georgia). Mr. Langworthy taught me the fundamentals of investigating these societies, with scholarship that reached back into the past centuries (especially the 18th-19th centuries) and forward to our own lifetimes. And then I was lucky to work with three medical sociologists trained by David Mechanic at University of Wisconsin, the result of which encompassed innovations in the study of neighborhoods in the US (NifeTy) and work environments that impinge on health (psychosocial dimensions of work). Mr Langworthy was not my advisor. I took just one course from him at Carleton. But his introduction to sociology and anthropology proved to be crucial in my NIH-focused research career development. I have a deep appreciation for what I learned by taking just one course with him, and I encourage Carleton students to reach out beyond their narrow vocationally oriented focal points in some directions that might not seem pertinent to transitional adulthood. Everything is connected with everything else in ways that might not be appreciated until after a basic introductory course. - Jim