In memoriam: Walter Nugent, the Andrew V. Tackes Professor Emeritus of History

Author: Dennis Brown

Candles in the Grotto

Walter Nugent, the Andrew V. Tackes Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Notre Dame, died Sept. 8 in Seattle. He was 86.

Rev. Thomas E. Blantz, C.S.C., professor emeritus of history at Notre Dame, remembers Nugent as “an excellent colleague, a man of wide interests, a recognized expert in his chosen field, a generous mentor to the young, an enjoyable friend with a winning sense of humor, and a provider of that quiet example and leadership that a senior chairholder can bring to an academic department.”

Born in Watertown, New York, Nugent earned his doctorate in American history from the University of Chicago in 1961 after previously receiving a master’s degree in European history from Georgetown University and a bachelor’s degree from St. Benedict’s College.

He began a long and productive teaching and research career as an instructor in history at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas, and then as an assistant professor at Kansas State University. He joined the faculty of Indiana University in 1963 and spent 21 years in Bloomington, the last 16 as a full professor. He served in a variety of administrative positions, including associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, associate dean for central administration, director of the study abroad programs and chair of the Department of History.

Nugent was appointed the inaugural Tackes Professor of History at Notre Dame in 1984. Throughout his career he also held visiting professorships at Columbia University, New York University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Warsaw University in Poland and University College Dublin.

Nugent taught undergraduate and graduate courses primarily on U.S. migration, the Gilded Age and progressive era, and the U.S. West. His research focused on westward migration in the United States, populism and demography. He was the author, co-author or editor of more than a dozen books, including “Color Coded: Party Politics in the American West, 1950-2016,” “Into the West: The Story of its People” and “Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914”. He was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and Beinecke Fellowship, the Warsaw University Medal of Merit and two Fulbright Awards. He also was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Nugent is survived by his wife, Suellen Hoy, who also taught history at Notre Dame, six children, eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, a sister and a brother.

The family has requested donations be made in lieu of flowers to the Indiana University Archives.