Join the UCI School of Social Sciences in a celebration of the life of Christian Werner, UCI emeritus professor of geography and former dean of the UCI School of Social Sciences. Werner died Thursday, March 10, following heart complications. He was 81.

“We were saddened to learn of Christian's passing,” says Bill Maurer, social sciences dean. “He was a key force in helping establish the unique intellectual and institutional configuration of the School of Social Sciences, and he was such a generous man in every way. He will be missed.”

Werner was recruited to UCI in the late 60s as an associate professor in what was then the Program of Mathematical and Computer Models in the Behavioral Sciences. A geographer by training, he specialized in applying mathematical approaches to geographic and social sciences work – particularly transportation.

Werner arrived on campus in 1968 following five years on the faculty of Northwestern University. His first position on campus was as a visiting associate professor and later that same year, he was appointed a full member of the permanent faculty.

In 1972, Werner was named one of two inaugural Wallace J. Eckert Visiting Scientists at the IBM Research Center. The program was designed to support research in challenging areas of science and Werner’s specialization in mathematical modeling of environmental systems fit the bill. He spent one year in New York studying at the Thomas J. Watson Research Center. Later in his career – 1979-80 – he would also spend another year away from campus at the University of Lagos in Nigeria as a visiting professor.

Werner was promoted to full professor in 1972 and the following year, he was appointed associate dean in the School of Social Sciences. In 1974, he was named acting dean, a role he was appointed to in full the following year, serving as the fourth dean of the UCI School of Social Sciences.

As dean, Werner led a process to create subordinate organization within the school based on affinity groups where faculty came together to create curricula and share research. He is also credited with recruiting a number of renowned scholars to social sciences.

When Werner’s term ended in 1979, he became an active member of the campus in various committee memberships with Academic Personnel and the Academic Senate. And he served as acting dean of social sciences on various occasions when the sitting dean was away.

“Christian Werner was a very smart man, with an unusually inquisitive mind, whose commitment to the academic enterprise was complete,” says William R. Schonfeld, social sciences dean 1982-2002, and political science research professor. “He had absolute integrity and served with great distinction in a number of administrative and academic senate roles to advance the interests of the school and of the campus. He was a model university citizen and leader. Christian always told you what he thought, and his ideas were systematically demanding and driven by a sense of collective ambition.”

Werner taught courses on mathematical social science methods, statistical analysis in geography, transportation theory and analysis, and physical geography. His research, published widely in academic journals of geography from 1970-90, was supported primarily by the Volkswagen Foundation, National Science Foundation and Athens Technological Institute in Greece.

In 1990, he received the UCI Alumni Association Distinguished University Service Award for his engagement in volunteer university service programs and his service to the School of Social Sciences. While he officially retired in 1994, Werner remained an active member of the economics faculty and campus administration through committee work until 2007.  Among other roles, he was an active member of the universitywide Academic Senate task force on UC Merced, which generated the plans for UC’s tenth campus.  

Werner was born in Germany in 1935. He spoke with a pronounced German accent, but if asked, he’d identify as Prussian, not as German. He attended the Free University of Berlin, earning the U.S. equivalent of a master’s degree in mathematics and geography in 1960, and philosophy in 1961 – all three with high honors. He conducted his thesis work in the Department of Geography at Northwestern University and completed his doctorate at The Free University of Berlin in 1966. He loved nature, hiking, animals and in general had a sincere appreciation for the beauty of this world.

He is survived by his longtime partner, Kathy Alberti; sister Dorothea; and brothers Reinhard, Gert and Michael. Werner was a supporter of the Salvation Army; donations may be made in his name online at http://www.salvationarmyusa.org/.


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