I am sad to inform members of the university and alumni that Ray Paternoster passed away on Sunday. As you all know, Ray was one of “the founding members” of the Department that Charles Wellford assembled in the early 1980s and a major reason for the continued high quality of the program since that time.
Ray has done some of the most important work on sentencing and offender decision making in the last three decades. As a teacher Ray was one of the exceptional few who could consistently inspire rave reviews from students in a required statistics course of 200. He mentored a large cadre of graduate students who are now professors in their own right at the leading departments of criminology and criminal justice. There are countless graduates who can rightly say, “I would have never made it without Ray.” His value as a colleague is apparent in the number of publications that he has written with faculty and students in the department. His irreverence made us laugh and his passion inspired us.
There is no doubt that his passing will leave a hole in this place that is broad and deep. It is important that we all pull together to fill that void and continue the tradition that Ray was so essential in building. Jim Lynch, Chair, Department of Criminology & Criminal Justice
Ray Paternoster's Obituary:
On March 5, 2017, the world lost one of the greatest fathers, husbands, sons, siblings, teachers, and scholars on the planet. Raymond Paternoster, who was born on February 29, 1952, was taken much too early from so many people who loved him. He died in the arms of his wife, Ronet Bachman, and son, John Bachman-Paternoster, after a nearly 3-month herculean battle against idiopathic pancreatitis.
Ray earned his BA at the University of Delaware in 1972 and a Ph.D. in criminology at Florida State University in 1978. He was a Distinguished Professor (although he would never tell you he held the “Distinguished” honor) in the department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Ray wrote several books and over 200 articles and chapters during his career. He was an internationally-renowned scholar in the area of deterrence/rational choice theory and offender decision-making, and at the forefront of more rigorous empirical testing of theory in general. Beyond these academic achievements, he worked tirelessly to ensure that his scholarship was translated to policy. For example, his pursuit of social justice in the application of the death penalty was relentless. He was the principal investigator on a 2003 Maryland state-commissioned study of the role of race and geography in the application of the death penalty that empirically demonstrated the differential likelihood of receiving a death sentence for white and African American defendants and across jurisdictions. At the request of several organizations including the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, he performed countless statistical analyses and provided expert testimony in court cases across the U.S. on the effects of race and jurisdiction in capital cases. In addition to his influence on the legal and justice systems, he also worked extensively with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to help ground in the latest scientific research their efforts to combat cheating in sports. Importantly, Ray was just as devoted to teaching as he was to scholarship. He mentored dozens of Ph.D. students and junior colleagues, and delighted in teaching undergraduate courses in statistics. He was a one-of-a-kind professor who took both his scholarship and teaching extremely seriously, but never took himself too seriously. When named and distinguished professorships became an additional rung on the ladder for faculty to achieve in academia and another status symbol on email signatures, he added the moniker, “Emperor of Wyoming,” to his signature in playful protest. He will always remain the only Emperor of Wyoming.
Ray lived each second of his life to the fullest. He loved the Yankees, standup paddle boarding, traveling, backpacking, skiing and walking our dog, Mickey, in the woods. He was also a voracious reader and did the New York Times crossword puzzle every day. He recently learned to love RVing, despite his original perception that it was “camping for wimps.” His newest interest was in cooking, and he insisted that his family call him “Chef” when he was in the kitchen.
Above all, Ray believed the most important job in his life was being a father. He was not only Ronet’s husband and John’s father, he was their best friend. During the last day of Ray’s life, John told him that having the greatest dad in the world for 19 years was better than having a mediocre dad for 50 years. In addition to his wife and son, he left many other family members including three siblings whom he loved very much, Carole Gaughan, Anthony Paternoster, and Kim Paternoster. He was predeceased by his parents Anthony and Florence, as well as his brother John.
There will be celebration of Ray’s life in the summer of 2017. In lieu of flowers, donations in Ray’s honor can be made to the Delaware Food Bank, the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, or the American Civil Liberties Foundation.