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News In Memoriam: DRC Co-Founder Enrico L. Quarantelli

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​Enrico L. Quarantelli, 1998

APRIL 3, 2017

With heavy hearts, the Disaster Research Center is sorry to share the news that one of its founding directors, Professor Emeritus Enrico L. (Henry) Quarantelli, passed away on Sunday, April 2, 2017. He was 92 years old.

Professor Quarantelli was born November 10, 1924, in New York City. His education in New York included Holy Cross Academy of Manhattan and St. Catharine's School, and he was a graduate of Power Memorial Academy. He attended Fordham College in 1942 before serving in the US Army, Headquarters Battery, 724th Field Artillery Battalion, from May 4, 1943 – April 13, 1946. He entered as Private and was promoted to Technician Fifth Grade (TEC 5) before being honorably discharged as Sergeant.

Following his military service, Professor Quarantelli graduated from the University of Chicago with a Bachelor of Arts with Honors (1948), a Master of Arts with Honors (1953), and an Honors Ph.D. (1959). Prior to completing his dissertation, he served as a lecturer at the South Bend Center, Indiana University, 1954-1957, and as an instructor at Harpur College, State University of New York, 1957-1959. Yet this simple listing of accomplishments of his early life and career belies the incredible impact his contributions would have on the field of disaster science, on disaster management practice, and on the work of thousands of scholars and future practitioners around the world. 

A Pioneer in Disaster Research

L to R Steven R. Tripp, E. L. Quarantelli, and Russell R. Dynes, 1968, L to R Steven R. Tripp, E. L. Quarantelli, and Russell R. Dynes

His work in the disaster research field began as he played an instrumental role with the National Opinion Research Center (NORC) then at the University of Chicago. This group, along with several other NORC groups in the United States, spearheaded much of the early research on human responses to disaster. While at the University of Chicago, he was heavily influenced by his training in the "second Chicago school," an approach that emphasized the symbolic interactionist approach and field research methodology. Upon completion of his dissertation at the University of Chicago, Professor Quarantelli took a faculty appointment at The Ohio State University in 1959, where he remained on faculty until 1984.

In 1963, along with Professors Russell Dynes and Eugene Haas, he formed the Disaster Research Center (DRC). Their choice of name was a quick thought on a flight home after receiving initial funding. Ultimately, however, DRC would go on to generate some of the most important social and behavioral science research on disasters. Over three decades at The Ohio State University, Quarantelli and Dynes spearheaded what became a hallmark of disaster research methodology: quick response. Since then the Disaster Research Center, first at The Ohio State University and then at the University of Delaware, has completed some 700 quick response studies, generating a host of graduate students uniquely trained in this methodological approach. Professor Quarantelli's field deployments with the Disaster Research Center spanned from the 1964 Alaskan earthquake to the 2001 September 11th attacks, when he was 76 years old. In 1984, Professors Quarantelli and Dynes moved the Disaster Research Center to the University of Delaware, where Professor Dynes had become Chair of the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice. Professor Quarantelli continued his career at the University of Delaware on faculty in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, teaching until 1989, as a research professor until 1998, and then as a Professor Emeritus until the time of his death. Over the course of his career, one of his intellectual passions was the growth of the Center's Resource Collection, which includes not only decades of qualitative and quantitative research data, but also a library holding of more than 70,000 publications. Visiting scholars from around the world still apply to DRC, sometimes a year in advance, to come to make use of this vast collection.  

In 1996, Professor Quarantelli was awarded the Charles E. Fritz Award for Career Contributions to Disaster Research. Professor Quarantelli devoted his entire life to the disaster research field, sparing little for pursuits outside those of scientific inquiry. The disaster research community is truly in his debt for the careers he helped to launch, for his lineage of scholarly descendants, and for the intellectual legacy that has sustained this community over these last five decades. As one of DRC's current directors, James Kendra, stated, "I think perhaps his main gift to us and to the world was the gift of clear thinking about disasters. He gave us methods and an art for seeing through the myths and misconceptions of these events, and for developing a better understanding of causes and consequences."

​Japan-US Disaster Seminar, 1972

An Indelible Legacy

Dr. Enrico L. Quarantelli and Dr. Russell Dynes at DRC, 2012

His research covered nearly every topic that is presently studied, sometimes only in a nascent form, but it is easy to see the intellectual origins of many ideas that scholars pursue now. Organizational change, emergence, volunteers, disaster mental health, emergency operations centers, warnings, evacuations, and emergency medical care among other subjects all form part of the vast corpus of research that undergirds modern disaster science.

His last work remains in progress, a broad survey of the popular culture of disaster that he worked on with Ian Davis. Professor Quarantelli was long interested in the representation of disasters in music, art, folklore, and film. His theoretical approach in symbolic interactionism was on display: how did these representations reflect how a local population understood the disaster and drew it into their collective experience? How did it shape the awareness of those who were not there? He always hoped that someone would tackle popular culture in more detail. Perhaps someone will.

His research is widely known. Indeed, he is credited with over 400 authored, coauthored, edited, or coedited publications, including over 200 published articles, 19 books and monographs, and over 150 peer-reviewed DRC preliminary papers that continue to be frequently downloaded and cited. He tackled questions central to the core of the field, including edited volumes that explored the very definition of "What is a Disaster" and he outlined the features distinguishing emergencies from disasters and disasters from catastrophes. Yet some of his work is known only in a smaller circle, such as his development of cooperative relationships with scholars in Japan, beginning some thirty years ago and persisting to this day. The field is young enough that today's senior scholars were around for much of its development, but newer scholars may not know the provenance of certain fixtures of our intellectual lives. His work with colleagues in establishing the International Research Committee on Disasters, part of the International Sociological Association, and the founding of the International Journal of Mass Emergencies and Disasters, have provided an important infrastructure for scholarly communication. Because IJMED is freely available online, it serves as a vital resource for the practice and policy communities.

His lifelong collaboration with Russell Dynes, of course, is a part of that personal and professional history and part of the history of disaster research, a unique partnership that is a preeminent example of teamwork in science. Their collaboration points to an overall benefit of intellectual partnerships and a testimony to discovery as a social enterprise. Though they were both sociologists, their interests were diverse: Dynes was a sociologist of religion, while Quarantelli's dissertation was on the professionalization of dentistry. Indeed, perhaps as much as their scientific findings, their work together should stand as an example for others, an example that is even more urgent as academic work moves even further toward interdisciplinarity.

In Rememberance

During his last illness, Professor Quarantelli was primarily cared for by his caregiver, Tatina Jallah, (whom he fondly referred to as "the Queen"), as well as by close friends Mary Ann Hughes, Pat Young, and Joanne Nigg. Professor Quarantelli leaves behind no immediate family. However, as current DRC director Tricia Wachtendorf, noted, "There are thousands of scholars who see him as a founding father of their work, and a very large but close group of former students who view him and Russell Dynes with the care and admiration typically reserved for grandfathers. This year we've lost not only an intellectual leader, but a mentor who has inspired so many of us to make a difference in theory, a difference in communities we study, and a difference in the lives of the next generation. The extended DRC family will miss him dearly."  DRC Resource Collection Coordinator Pat Young added, "Many people view their progeny as their way to leave a legacy or a lasting impact on this world. Professor Quarantelli's progeny, although not blood descendants, will serve to perpetuate his global impact for generations to come and across the globe, a legacy to which very few can lay claim. At this time we can only imagine and dream of how his life will continue to ripple across this world in the years ahead." 

For detailed information on Professor Quarantelli's Celebration of Life reception and interment on June 9th, 2017, please click here. Professor Quarantelli established three funds to support disaster research, education, and scholarship. Those wishing to honor the memory of Professor Quarantelli may consider The E. L. Quarantelli Scholars in Disaster Social Science Research Endowment Fund, which will support University of Delaware student scholars in their academic and research pursuits, The E. L. Quarantelli Field Research Endowment Fund, which will support the kind of field research that Professors Quarantelli and Dynes pioneered, or The E. L. Quarantelli Resource Collection. Detailed descriptions of the funds are available here. To contribute to the funds, click here.

We hope that we will all reflect on and be deeply grateful for Professor Quarantelli's life, which he devoted to our field and—as much as it is possible within one person's power—to the wellbeing of so many people.

Our Memories

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With heavy hearts, the Disaster Research Center is sorry to share the news that one of its founding directors, Professor Emeritus Enrico (Henry) L. Quarantelli, passed away on Sunday, April 2, 2017, after a lengthy illness. He was 92 years old.

With heavy hearts, the Disaster Research Center is sorry to share the news that one of its founding directors, Professor Emeritus Enrico (Henry) L. Quarantelli, passed away on Sunday, April 2, 2017, after a lengthy illness. He was 92 years old.

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