Obituary | John Wunder

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Obituary | John Wunder

John Wunder in portrait

John Wunder, professor emeritus in the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of History, died June 25, at age 78.

Wunder was born Jan. 7, 1945, in Vinton, Iowa, and grew up in Dysart, Iowa. He received his bachelor’s, master’s and juris doctorate degrees from the University of Iowa and a doctorate from the University of Washington.

Wunder began his tenure at Nebraska in 1988 as a professor of history and served as director of the Center for Great Plains Studies until 1997. He also served as an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences and as president of the Mari Sandoz Heritage Society and the Western History Association.

Wunder’s academic interests ranged from the American West and Native American history to the history of Nebraska and the development of six-man football. He authored or edited more than 20 books and numerous essays and articles on topics such as the Great Plains and American legal history. “Retained by the People: A History of American Indians and the Bill of Rights” won Phi Alpha Theta’s award for the best history book in 1995. In 2016, CGPS opened the Wunder Book Collection, comprised of scholarly works about the Great Plains and Natives in the Plains donated by Wunder.

Wunder received the 2021 Sower Award in the Humanities from Humanities Nebraska for his contribution to the public understanding of the humanities, and the university’s Annis Chaikin Sorenson Award for Outstanding Teacher in 1994. He was the first professor from UNL to be selected to hold the Fulbright Bicentennial Chair in American Studies at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

Before teaching at Nebraska, Wunder taught at Case Western Reserve University, Texas Tech University and Clemson University.

Wunder was preceded in death by his parents, Arnold and Mary Wunder.

He is survived by Susan, his wife of 53 years; daughters, Nell and Amanda; son-in-law, Shamus Adams; and grandson, Anders Wunder Adams.

A gathering to remember Wunder will be held early in the fall semester.

Memorials are suggested to the Chief Standing Bear Journey for Justice Scholarship Fund.

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