In Memory: Donald Auster

Dear Laurentian community,

I write to share the sad news that Don Auster, St. Lawrence professor emeritus of sociology, passed away in December. He was 99 years old.

As his colleagues and students recall, Don brought a heartfelt curiosity and even joy to his work. By demonstrating his own interest in our unique characters, he found that we have more in common—and that we are more connected—than we imagined.

Don lived a remarkable life.

After growing up in Port Chester, N.Y., he volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army during World War II. Originally boarding a ship for North Africa, Don was surprised to find himself in Bermuda, where he worked as a medic for three years. It was a formative experience that, with tuition assistance from the G.I. Bill, led him to earn his baccalaureate degree in sociology at Hofstra University. He met his future wife, Nancy, and completed his master’s degree (Columbia University) and doctorate (Indiana University) in sociology.

In 1957, Don and Nancy and their daughters, Carol and Ellen, moved to Canton, where Don began teaching at St. Lawrence. In addition to his work as a sociology professor, he was an influential researcher and a mentor who inspired confidence in his students.

Don published several articles and scholarly papers on a fascinating range of topics, including a perspective of the comic strip Little Orphan Annie as propaganda and an in-depth exploration of the world of male nurses in the 1970s.

His family describes him as a feminist who saw the value in supporting his wife’s professional and recreational pursuits. And he encouraged his daughters to embrace their full potential and chase their aspirations. They embraced his sociological lens on the world and explored their ideas within academia by earning doctorates in sociology and becoming professors. His four granddaughters also have degrees and careers in fields related to social science.

To all who knew him, Don brought optimism and insight. As we mourn the loss of our friend and colleague, we admire his accomplishments and zest for life. And we are forever grateful for the impact Don made on St. Lawrence and generations of Laurentians.

Please join us in celebrating Don’s life by sharing your memories of him on the St. Lawrence University website. You can read the remembrances of others here.


Kate Morris