VU political scientist Dragnich dead at 97

Wednesday, August 12, 2009 at 5:21pm
Staff Reports

Alex N. Dragnich, an expert on Yugoslavia and Serbia and prolific author who taught for more than a quarter-century at Vanderbilt University, died of pneumonia Monday in Bowie, Md. He was 97.

A professor of political science, emeritus, at Vanderbilt, Dragnich was the original author of the still-in-print textbook Major European Governments (1961). He was still publishing articles and letters to the editor until a few months ago.

Dragnich, the child of Serbian immigrants, taught at Vanderbilt from 1950 to 1978, and chaired the political science department from 1964 to 1969. In 1970 he received the Thomas Jefferson Award for distinguished service to Vanderbilt.

“Vanderbilt was and always remained very much a part of his life, even while writing in retirement in the Washington area,” said son George Dragnich, an executive director of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Both my sister and I graduated from Vanderbilt, so his affinity to the university was that much dearer.”

Born in 1912 in Ferry County, Washington, Dragnich began school at 9 after the local truant officer found the family log cabin and informed his father that education was compulsory in America, said George Dragnich. At the time, the elder Dragnich didn’t speak English.

His education was interrupted again because of poverty during the Great Depression, but he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1938, and completed work on his doctorate at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1942. He served as a foreign affairs analyst with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II.

Dragnich’s first book, a critique of the Yugoslavian communist regime, Tito’s Promised Land (1954), was the result of his three-year stint as a public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

His wife, Adele Jonas Dragnich, died in 2000. Survivors in addition to George Dragnich include daughter Alix Lombardo of New York City and three grandchildren. Son Paul Dragnich predeceased him.

The family plans a private memorial service.