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2003 Stories

Criminology Scholar Sheldon L. Messinger Dies at Age 77
Professor Emeritus Sheldon L. Messinger, a distinguished scholar in the fields of criminology and sociology, died in Berkeley on Thursday, March 6, of complications related to lymphoma. He was 77 years old.

"A mainstay of the Center for the Study of Law and Society's activities, Sheldon Messinger contributed greatly to the intellectual development of faculty and students," says Boalt Hall professor emeritus Philip Selznick. "For Shelly, every student was a colleague, and every colleague was a student." Messinger served as vice chairman for the Center for the Study of Law and Society from 1961 to 1970.

Messinger became a professor as well as acting dean of UC Berkeley's School of Criminology in 1970. He was appointed dean of the former School of Criminology in July 1971 and served until June 1975. He became the Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt Professor of Law in 1977 as part of the law school's newly formed Jurisprudence and Social Policy (JSP) Program. He served on the JSP faculty for 14 years, focusing primarily on deviance and social control.

During his career, he was the recipient of numerous professional awards, including the Richard A. McGee Award for Outstanding Contributions to Criminal Justice Research from the American Justice Institute and the Award of Merit from the California Bureau of Criminal Statistics. He also received the Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Criminology and the Presidents Award, both from the Western Society of Criminology. Messinger's former student, Thomas G. Blomberg, is the Sheldon L. Messinger Professor of Criminology at Florida State University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

"Shelly had an uncanny knack for making people see their own work in new ways, and in ways that immeasurably improved upon it," says Boalt Hall professor Malcolm Feeley. "I am not alone in recognizing these contributions; Shelly may go down in academic annals for being one of the few scholars, if not the only one, for whom a collection of essays in his honor went from a hardback to a paperback edition, and then into a revised second edition." Titled Punishment and Social Control: Essays in Honor of Sheldon L. Messinger, the book was edited by T. G. Blomberg and S. Cohen and published in 1996.

Following his retirement, Messinger remained active in university matters, serving as the founding chair of the policy board for the UC Berkeley Retirement Center, chair of the UC systemwide emeriti association, chair of the Academic Senate Committee on University-Emeriti Relations, and as one of the principle architects of the Health Care Facilitator Program-a service that helps UC health care plan members understand benefits and patient rights as well as resolve coverage and access problems.

"Shelly will be missed not only for his ability to clearly articulate an issue, but also the way he did so with great heart and wit," says Shelley Glazer, executive director of the UC Berkeley Retirement Center. "His advocacy on behalf of UC emeriti and retirees will have enduring impact on all of us, and he will be sorely missed."

Messinger was married for 53 years to Mildred Handler, who passed away in August 2000. He is survived by his sons, Adam of Berkeley and Eli of Oakland. His sons graduated from UC Berkeley in 1978 and 1980, respectively. He also is survived by his brother, Jay, of Chicago. The family will hold a private memorial service. UC Berkeley is also planning a memorial service. A press release is available on the UC Berkeley website. For more information, please contact Erin Campbell at 510-643-8010 or

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