Jennings Lee Wagoner, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of Virginia, died on January 27, 2013 at his home in Ivy. Born in Winston-Salem, NC in 1938, he was the eldest son of Jennings L. Wagoner, Sr. and Carolyn Phifer Wagoner. He was preceded in death by his parents, a brother, Carroll Phifer (Bubba) Wagoner, and a sister, Mary Louise Wagoner.
Jennings was known by many names during his lifetime. Family members and those who knew him as a boy growing up in Winston-Salem called him “Sonny.” To fellow students at Mars Hill College (A.A. ’58), Wake Forest College (B.A. ’60), and Duke University (M.A.T. ’61), and especially to his Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers, fishing buddies, and other friends and colleagues, he was “Wags.”
Wags became “Mr. Wagoner” when he began his fifty year career in education as a rookie teacher at Northeast Jr. High School in High Point, NC. Upon joining the faculty at Wake Forest in 1962, Mr. Wagoner became “Professor Wagoner.” After earning his Ph.D. in educational, intellectual, and social history at Ohio State in 1968, Professor Wagoner became “Dr. Wagoner.” Through it all, he always preferred “Wags.”
He joined the University of Virginia faculty in 1968, beginning a 37-year tenure that would touch many lives as he directed over 50 Ph.D. dissertations and eventually held the William C. Parrish, Jr. Professorship. Some of the many awards and honors he received while on the Virginia faculty included the Outstanding Professor Award from the Curry School of Education, the University Alumni Association’s Distinguished Professor Award, the Raven Society’s Faculty Award, and Phi Delta Kappa’s Distinguished Service Award. He served in the University’s Faculty Senate for many years, was the Senate representative to the ROTC Committee, and was a member of numerous other committees and councils at the University. He served for ten years as Director of the Center for the Study of Higher Education and for twelve years as Chairman of the Department of Educational Foundations and Policy Studies.
He was the author of numerous articles, reviews, and books, including Jefferson and Education and American Education: A History. He served as President of the History of Education Society, Vice President of Division F of the American Educational Research Association, and was on the editorial boards of several professional journals.
His success and his passion was not limited to academia. He was also an avid outdoorsman – an Eagle Scout, Scoutmaster, Outward Bound alumnus, outdoor education workshop leader, and active supporter of a variety of conservation and wildlife groups. While he enjoyed the classroom and the library, he also loved weekends spent hiking on mountain trails, climbing at Seneca Rocks, rafting and canoeing in whitewater rivers, and fishing in the ocean surf and freshwater streams.
Beyond one’s accomplishments and beyond one’s passions, one’s life is properly judged by the effect that it had on others. Jennings Wagoner’s life was an object lesson in the value of education, hard work, kindness, humor, humility, adventure, duty, honor, family, and love. All who knew him benefitted by his example – particularly those who knew him as “Dad” and “Granddaddy.”
He is survived by his wife of 50 years, Shirley C. Wagoner, two sons, David C. Wagoner and his wife Jennifer of Keswick, and Brian J. Wagoner and his wife Katherine of North Hollywood, CA, a brother, William O. (Bill) Wagoner and his wife Carolyn of Earlysville, and four grandchildren: Morgan, Caroline, Katherine and Will.
Visitation will be at Hill & Wood Funeral Home from 5:30-7:00 pm on Tuesday, January 29. A funeral service will be held at 11:00 am on Wednesday, January 30 at University Baptist Church, 1223 West Main Street, Charlottesville, with the Rev. Jack Averill presiding. Graveside service will follow at Monticello Memory Gardens, to be followed by a reception at the church.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that contributions be made to the Jennings L. Wagoner, Jr. Scholarship Fund at the University of Virginia’s Curry School of Education, to the American Cancer Society, or to University Baptist Church, where he was a long-standing member and deacon.