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OBITUARIES : Stanton Wheeler 1930 - 2007

Professor helped allot funds from '84 Olympics

December 11, 2007|Dennis McLellan | Times Staff Writer

Stanton Wheeler, the Yale Law School professor who became the first president of the foundation responsible for distributing Southern California's $93-million share of the surplus generated by the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, has died. He was 77.

Wheeler, an emeritus professor of law and social sciences at Yale Law School, died Friday in New Haven, Conn., of complications after surgery, the university said.

Credited with helping to create the field of sociology of law, Wheeler took leave from Yale in 1985 to become president of the newly established Amateur Athletic Foundation, the Los Angeles-based beneficiary of 40% of the approximately $232 million surplus from the 1984 Olympics.

"He provided early leadership in keeping the commitment from the 1984 Olympic Games to invest in the youth of the Greater Los Angeles Area," U.S. Olympic Committee Chairman Peter Ueberroth, who served as president of the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee, said Monday.

Ueberroth said Wheeler did "an excellent job" as president.

"He was very thoughtful and inclusive -- to be sure that we included all parts of the Valley, South-Central, the Latino community, et al. -- just all ethnic groups -- and try and make sure that the foundation got off to the correct start," said Ueberroth.

Anita DeFrantz, Wheeler's successor who remains the foundation's president, said: "It was a difficult task because we had $93 million and no history. He was able to frame the questions so that the focus was on serving youth."

Among the recipients of 79 grants totaling about $4.5 million in the foundation's first year were the Southern California Tennis Assn., the Boys and Girls clubs, the YMCAs and local community-based sports clubs such as the Fillmore Swim Assn. and Little League groups.

During Wheeler's two years as president, the foundation was responsible for making about $14 million in grants and programs benefiting youth sports in Southern California and a $2-million one-time grant to support cultural activities.

Due to various investments of funds and interest income, the foundation's principal remained intact.

The Amateur Athletic Foundation, which was renamed the LA84 Foundation in June, continues to benefit Southern California youth sports: With the original $93 million, the foundation as of June had made $164 million in grants and carried an endowment of $170 million.

As the foundation's first president, Wheeler left behind another legacy.

"He launched what has become probably the best sports library in the United States," said Conrad Freund, the foundation's chief operating officer.

The Paul Ziffren Sports Resource Center, located at the foundation, contains what Freund described as an "extraordinary" collection of sports-related books, periodicals, historical films and videos and other research materials.

"Stan was the one that started this, and it sort of expanded and enhanced his academic background at Yale," said Freund. "It was his vision that academics and coaches and others could come together here at the foundation and discuss how sports affects their lives in various ways."

Freund, who knew Wheeler during his days as the foundation's president, said he "was an extremely bright, congenial man. I think people found him easy to be around and to talk with. It know it's trite, but he was a nice guy -- not at all afflicted with academic pretense as some might be."

Wheeler resigned as president of the foundation in 1987 because he would have lost his tenured status at Yale had he not returned.

He told board members in a letter that he "appreciated the opportunity to help this unique organization get underway" and said in a brief interview with The Times that he enjoyed working at the foundation and living in California, where he had grown up.

But board members said at the time that Wheeler missed the Yale academic life, his summer home in Vermont and another home in New York City -- as well as the time to pursue his scholarly interests. His subjects included administration of criminal justice, white-collar crime, sociology of law, sports and the law, and music and the law.

Wheeler was born Sept. 27, 1930, in Pomona. He graduated from Pomona College in 1952 and earned a master's and doctorate in sociology from the University of Washington, where he began his teaching career in 1956.

While on leave as an assistant professor at Harvard University, Wheeler was a 1960-61 Fulbright Research Scholar at the Institutes of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Oslo, Norway. He became a professor of law and sociology at Yale Law School in 1968 and was the author of 10 books, including co-writing "Crimes of the Middle Classes: White Collar Offenders in the Federal Courts" and "Sitting in Judgment: The Sentencing of White Collar Criminals."

In 2004, he was the recipient of the Fellows of the American Bar Foundation Outstanding Scholar Award, which is presented annually to an individual who has engaged in outstanding scholarship in the law or in government.

At the time of his death, Wheeler was a member of the Board of Senior Editors at the Law and Society Review, the Research Committee of the American Bar Foundation, and the editorial board of the Journal of Law, Economics and Organization.

He is survived by his wife, Marcia Chambers, a former reporter for the New York Times; his three sons, Steven, Kenneth and Warren; his brother, Alvin "Bud"; his sister, Nancy Dayton; and five grandchildren.

A graveside ceremony will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Grove Street Cemetery in New Haven, Conn.

The family plans to hold a jazz concert next spring in honor of Wheeler, a lifelong jazz buff who played the trumpet, cornet and fluegelhorn with various jazz bands.


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