University of California: In Memoriam, 1986

Wayland D. Hand, Germanic Languages: Los Angeles

Professor of Germanic Languages and Folklore, Emeritus

Wayland D. Hand was born on 19 March 1907 in Auckland, New Zealand where his father had taken the family in an attempt to start a new existence. The experiment failed, and within a few years the father returned with the family to Utah, where Wayland Hand was to spend the remainder of his youth. He graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in 1933 and received his M.A. the following year at the same institution. Two years later he received the Ph.D. in German at the University of Chicago, having written a dissertation on German Alpine folksongs under his mentor, Archer Taylor. He taught for one year as an instructor of German at the University of Minnesota before coming to UCLA in 1937 where he was to remain for the rest of his career. Among his many achievements at UCLA was the building up of the folklore collection in the University Research Library, which is unrivalled at any university in the world. He also founded the Center for the Study of Comparative Folklore and Mythology, which became one of the finest research institutes of its kind in the world, as well as the interdepartmental teaching program at UCLA which awards its own M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. During his years at UCLA he also built the center library into an excellent research apparatus, contributing most of the books through purchases out of his own pocket. On 19 March 1977, his 70th birthday, the center library was officially named the “Wayland D. Hand Library of Folklore and Mythology,” the announcement being made at a birthday party held at the Sunset Recreation Center.

Wayland Hand's accomplishments over the years are numerous, and the honors bestowed upon him form a list that seems endless. Among them, from 1947 to 1950 he was chairman of the Department of Germanic Languages. He was editor of the Journal of American Folklore from 1947-1951 and editor of Western Folklore from 1954 to 1966. He also served as President of the American Folklore Society from 1955 to 1956.

Wayland Hand's reputation for scholarship soon spread far beyond the shores of the United States. He won the Giuseppe Pitré Prize for International

Folklore in 1965, the first American ever to receive this prestigious award. He was elected a fellow of the Wellcome Museum of London and of the Folklore Society of Great Britain in 1970. He not only served the International Society for Folk-Narrative Research as vice-president from 1964, but in 1978 this most important of folklore societies elected him honorary vice-president for life. And in 1972 he was knighted by the Finnish government as a knight first-class in the Order of the Lion.

Of all of Wayland Hand's many achievements, none is more remarkable than the Archive of American Popular Beliefs and Superstitions, consisting of nearly two million individual items that he assembled and classified over a period of 45 years. It is this collection that forms the data-base for his Encyclopedia of Popular Beliefs and Superstitions, a project that continues after his death. This amazing collection is unique, and stands as a fitting monument to a productive career of devotion and dedication.

Wayland D. Hand died on 22 October 1986 at the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania air terminal of a heart seizure. He had spent several days in Detroit, participating in sessions with colleagues working to bring his Encyclopedia of American Popular Beliefs and Superstitions to fruition, and had departed Detroit that morning to attend the annual meetings of the American Folklore Society in Baltimore with a scheduled stop in Pittsburgh to change planes. His friends and colleagues waited for him in vain at the Baltimore hotel in which the meetings were held. With his death the UCLA program in Folklore and Mythology lost its most illustrious and its founding member.

Eli Sobel D.K. Wilgus Donald Ward

About this text
Courtesy of University Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
Title: 1986, University of California: In Memoriam
By:  University of California (System) Academic Senate, Author
Date: 1986
Contributing Institution:  University Archives, The Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720-6000;
Copyright Note:

Transmission or reproduction of materials protected by copyright beyond that allowed by fair use requires the written permission of the copyright owners. Works not in the public domain cannot be commericially exploited without permission of the copyright owner. Responsibility for any use rests exclusively with the user

University of California Regents

Academic Senate-Berkeley Division, University of California, 320 Stephens Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-5842