George Wieland, a retired study director at the Institute for Social Research and associate research scientist at the School of Public Health, died Sept. 29, 2020, at the age of 84.

George Wieland, a retired study director at the Institute for Social Research and associate research scientist at the School of Public Health, died Sept. 29, 2020, at the age of 84.
George Wieland

Born 1936 in Manhattan, New York City, Wieland was always grateful that his parents Gottlieb Wieland and Martha Wahlenmaier had emigrated to the United States. He was descended from a long line, at least 13 generations, of German peasants.

His parents came to America with the equivalent of eighth-grade educations, but wonderful teachers and schools in America enabled Wieland to graduate from New Brunswick (New Jersey) High School and Stanford University.

Wieland was interested in becoming a geologist, but was told color blindness would prevent him from continuing in that career. He then received a Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Michigan, where he later joined the research faculty. 

For a number of years, he did evaluation research in Britain’s National Health Service, enjoying his time living and working in England. He also taught at the Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University.

His books included “Changing Hospitals,” “Improving Health Care Management,” and “Organizations: Behavior, design and change,” which is still cited by scholars in his field today.

He also studied the lives of immigrants from Germany, particularly Swabia (in modern day Baden-Wurttemburg). He eventually interviewed many German and German Americans about their experiences, publishing “Bessararbian Knight,” “Stubborn & Liking It: Einstein & Other Germans in America,” “Escape from Hell: German Voices,” “Celtic Germans: The Rise and Fall of Ann Arbor’s Germans,” and “German Mind: Made for Industry.” 

In midlife, Wieland also gained a new passion for a uniquely American form of social dancing called “contra dance.” Dancers join, alone or in groups, and are paired up in lines to dance to live music, typically Celtic, French-Canadian or from other folk traditions. Wieland went out dancing at least once a week. 

In 2001, he was diagnosed with CMML, a rare form of leukemia for which few treatments are available for older patients, and this enhanced his love of life, especially his passion for dancing, traveling and visiting his children. His determination to manage his own health and to exorcise the traumas of childhood aided in his pursuit of the happiest, healthiest life he could manage.

Wieland was predeceased by his parents, and by his beloved aunt Lena Schlimmeyer, uncle Johannes Schlimmeyer, and their daughter, cousin Lillian L. Sabatino, of Virginia. He is survived by his four children with Sharon Kane: L. Susan Wieland (Jonathan Gutoff) of Providence, Rhode Island; Sandra K. Wieland of San Diego; Mike Wieland (Donna) of Wiesbaden, Germany; and Patience Wieland (David Jarvis) of Houston.

Also surviving are grandchildren Lillie Gutoff of Vermont, Michael B. Wieland and Thomas Wieland of Alabama; his brother Richard Wieland (Mary Ann) of Toms River, New Jersey; and his nieces and nephews Laurie Wieland Burkhardt (Doug) of Phoenix, Beth Rosenberg Sanders of New Jersey, Erik Wieland (Holly Baldwin) of Oakland, and Stephen Rosenberg (Elizabeth) of New Jersey; his cousins Will Schlimmeyer (Alma) in Moreno Valley, California, and Edith Gscheidle, Sieglinde Meister, Birgit Gotz-Konig, Gisela Noller, Jakob Schafer and many other cousins in Germany. 

In addition to his sweetheart, Kathy McNeil, his beloved friends who brightened his life included Harry A. Turner, Rolf Th. Stiefel, Penelope Trikes, Rich Hausman, Rosemary Ryan, Mary Hope, Margery Obed, Nancy Shattuck, Walt Hopkins, the Kovacs family, Roberta Work, Leo Zimmer, Robert Van Dyck, Pamela Moore, and many others. 

In lieu of flowers the family encourages donations in Wieland’s name to his favorite Michigan nonprofit, the Ann Arbor Community for Traditional Music and Dance, or Traces, a public history charity existing in both Germany and the United States that seeks to encourage understanding and oral history between all peoples.

Those who may wish to view a recording of Wieland’s Oct. 12 Zoom memorial can email for the link. 

Submitted by the Wieland family