Dr. Rolf Wigand, Professor Emeritus of Information Science, Business Information Systems and Management at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, passed away Sept. 25.
“I am very sorry to hear of the passing of Dr. Rolf Wigand,” said Dr. Ibrahim Niscanci, chairman and professor of Systems Engineering who worked closely with Dr. Wigand. “He was a true gentleman always with a very gentle smile ready to help. He was also a very respected scholar who really cared about research.”
Although born in Altkirch, Germany, Dr. Wigand grew up in Mayen, Germany where he lived until the end of his high school years. After gaining a few years of experience, he traveled to the U.S. where he earned a BBA in Marketing and Advertising in 1970 and a master’s degree in Mass Communication in 1972 from Texas Tech University. In 1975 he earned his Ph.D. from Michigan State University in Organizational Communication.
Dr. Wigand went on to hold various positions after that. In 2002 he became the Maulden-Entergy Chair and Distinguished Professor of Information Science and Management at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock retiring in 2015—completing 40 years as an education practitioner.
“I am greatly saddened to learn of his passing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Pierce, chair of the Department of Information Science. “In addition to being a tremendously productive scholar in the field of information science, Dr. Wigand was a great teacher and mentor to his students. He contributed generously to our discipline through his conference, editorial and review work. He was a kind, soft-spoken and considerate colleague that will be missed by all who knew him.”
He was also known as an advocate for his students and someone they could always put their trust in. Dr. Wigand was thoughtful and had an intuition of what the people he cared for needed.
“I do not know how he discovered my weakness for Ritter Chocolates,” said Dr. Niscanci. “I would find a Ritter Chocolate in my mailbox every time he would travel overseas. [I] loved him.”
Dr. Wigand is remembered as an outstanding scholar, colleague, advocate and leader for his students. His active research agenda yielded 21 books and over 500 articles, chapters and monographs. His research explored the intersection of newer information technologies and their impact on organizations and society.
An esteemed colleague, Dr. Nitin Agarwal, director of Collaboratorium for social media and online behavioral studies, had an immense appreciation for Dr. Wigand and his work.
“He cherished interdisciplinary research and showed its value through his numerous collaborative research projects,” Agarwal said. “He was one of the foundational members of the social network analysis research community that started in the early 1980s. He was extremely systematic and rigorous in his approach.”
He had a wonderful sense of humor and always knew how to lighten up the situation when things got rough. His positivity created a venue for his many accomplishments. When asked about his favorite memory with Dr. Wigand, Dr. Agarwal reminisced on how wise Dr. Wigand was with life and his research.
“We worked on over two dozen research studies over a decade,” Dr. Agarwal said. “He would always ask the right questions, and I often wondered how he did that. So I asked. He said, jokingly, ‘asking questions is easy, answering them is the hard part.’ This was one of my most favorite memories and also the most profound because asking the right question is fundamental to do good research – and it is not easy. Rolf made it look easy.”
His research was supported by the National Science Foundation, the German National Science Foundation, the Volkswagen Foundation, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin, the European Union, the International Science Council in Paris, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and many other major funding agencies.
With wisdom and wit, Dr. Wigand left his mark on the world as a visiting professor in various cities across the globe such as Mexico City, Munich, Helsinki and Sydney. Professor Wigand was also a founding member of Bled eConference, a community that aims to contribute to the shaping of economic and social growth as well as the well-being of citizens around the world. In a statement released by them, they described Dr. Wigand as “a truly inspiring professor, colleague and above all else, a great man whose words would always encourage everyone around him to give and achieve their best.”
“Rolf touched numerous lives and I was fortunate to be among them,” Dr. Agarwal said. “He was an incredible mentor, friend, and colleague.”
UA Little Rock was lucky to have such an innovative and intelligent faculty member. Dr. Rolf Wigand’s knowledge broke boundaries and will be profoundly missed as a researcher, colleague, mentor and professor.