George Charles Wagner June 12, 1949 - November 20, 2021
Professor George Wagner was the cornerstone for graduate education in the department of psychology for almost 20 years. He leaves a hole that will nearly be impossible to fill, having established a lasting legacy of scholarly excellence and success in graduate education.
George Wagner was born on June 12, 1949, in Bronxville, New York, to George and Addie (Marano) Wagner, and grew up in Yorktown Heights, and also in Fairfield, Connecticut. He won a Connecticut state scholarship and attended Fairfield University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and subsequently attended Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo where he earned two master’s degrees, in biology and psychology, respectively. On a Searle Fellowship, he went on to complete his doctorate of biopsychology in 1981 at the University of Chicago, with a specialty in behavioral pharmacology and a focus on the neurochemical mechanism of Parkinson’s disease.
Professor Wagner joined the psychology department of Rutgers University in 1981. His research at Rutgers focused on animal models of autism, schizophrenia, and Parkinson's disease. This included a large body of work in the field of neurotoxicology, examining how toxicants could affect the monoaminergic neurotransmitter systems as well as how risk factors such as genetics, sex, or age might result in susceptibility to mental illness. This work was also highly translational, with a focus on interventions or prevention strategies that might help protect the nervous system against the damaging effects of toxicants or facilitate nervous system recovery from toxicant exposure.
With his passion for teaching, Professor Wagner trained numerous undergraduate and graduate students. Over the course of four decades, he was especially proud to have graduated twenty-one doctoral students. He won the Rutgers University Warren L. Susman Teaching Excellence Award in 1994 and the New Jersey Biomedical Research Association Mentor Award in 2006. His collaborations with students and colleagues generated well over a hundred scientific peer-reviewed articles.
Professor Wagner served as the vice-chair for the Psychology Graduate Program at Rutgers from 1992- 1997 and 2007-2018. He was a member of the editorial board of Aggressive Behavior, a peer-review journal, and also belonged to many professional organizations, notably the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Americans for Medical Progress, Eastern Psychological Association, International Society for Research on Aggression, and the Society for Neuroscience.
As an avocation, he was fascinated by nineteenth-century art and natural sciences, especially geology and fossils. With his wife, Roberta, he meticulously restored a Victorian house in Hopewell, New Jersey, along with dozens of pieces of salvaged Victorian furniture. He was a consummate woodturner with mastery of open-segmented turning, and also more recently, applied his talents to working with leaded glass.