James Robert “Bob” Wegs, professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame, died on Wednesday, July 14, 2010. He was 73. Specializing in modern European social and economic history, especially in Germany and Austria, he taught at New York University from 1969 to 1976 and at Vanderbilt University for a year before joining the Notre Dame faculty in 1977.
A native of Quincy, Ill., Wegs was graduated from Western Illinois University in Macomb in 1963. As an undergraduate there, he studied for a year overseas at the University of Vienna. He earned a master’s degree in German history from Northern Illinois University in DeKalb in 1966 and a doctoral degree in Central European history from the University of Illinois in Urbana in 1969.
Wegs’ prolific and variegated scholarship produced articles and books on Austrian economic mobilization during World War I, the life of working class young people in Vienna from 1890 to 1940, youth crime, and the justice system in Austria. A general textbook he published in 1977, Europe Since 1945, is now in its fourth edition.
A popular and sought after lecturer, Wegs accompanied a Notre Dame-sponsored cruise on the Danube River in the early 1990s, giving daily talks on the history and culture of the region. Among the passengers were a recently retired investment counselor and 1954 Notre Dame alumnus, Robert S. Nanovic, and his wife Elizabeth. Impressed, the Nanovics later endowed a program devoted to the study of issues which seemed indispensable to an understanding of contemporary Europe: nationalism, citizenship, ethnicity, immigration, and the place of Europe in world history. Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies was established in 1993 with Robert Wegs as its director. He served in that position until 2002.
“The Nanovic Institute would never have come into being without Bob’s vision and inspired leadership,” says A. James McAdams, Scholl Professor of International Affairs and current director of the institute. “He recognized Notre Dame’s great potential in European studies and made it possible for us to become what we are today.”
Wegs is survived by his wife, Joyce M. Wegs; his daughter, Alison (Richard) Abner of Granger; and two grandchildren, Amanda and Ciera Abner.