Professor Emeritus William Madsen died of lung cancer on Dec. 24 in his home in Santa Barbara surrounded by his family. His wife, Claudia Madsen, said he had been diagnosed with cancer three weeks before he died.
William Madsen was a professor at UCSB in the Anthropology Dept. for 24 years before retiring in 1991. One of his colleagues in the Anthropology Dept., Professor Mattison Mines, said Madsen’s classes were always popular among students.
“‘Pack ’em in,’ as he used to say,” Mines said. “Every class he had was in Campbell.”
Claudia Madsen said she and her husband had met students “from all over the country” who had taken his religion, magic and witchcraft class. Madsen was born in Shanghai, China, and grew up in the Philippines. From 1941 to 1943, he served on the American Field Service attached to Tahitian Free French Troops and the British Eighth Army in North Africa. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from UC Berkeley in 1955 and began working at UCSB in 1967.
Madsen has published a number of anthropological works, among them The American Alcoholic, Mexican-Americans of South Texas and The Virgin’s Children: Life in an Aztec Village Today.
Chancellor Henry Yang said Professor Madsen was “a well-respected teacher and scholar.”
“During our formative years and beyond, our campus was fortunate to have faculty of his stature teach here,” Yang said. “He brought anthropology alive for our students. His class on religion, magic and witchcraft never failed to fill Campbell Hall when it was offered. His dedication to our campus will be sorely missed.”
Anthropology Professor Emeritus Tom Harding said Madsen was one of the most popular professors at UCSB for a long time.
“He was a delightful person,” Harding said.
Claudia Madsen said the family did not choose to pursue the more “invasive” cancer treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation due to Madsen’s age and state of health.
“He was 82, almost 83; he’d had two strokes, he was blind from macular degenerative disease, and he had speech problems because of his strokes,” she said. “We had hospice care at home, and the children were here. That was what he wanted.”
Professor Madsen is survived by his wife, Claudia; his daughter, Karen Zwicke; his son, Christopher Madsen; his grandsons, Sean and Chris; and his son-in-law, Phil.