Chester Britt, professor and chair of the sociology department, touched the lives of many during his time at Iowa State.

chester britt

Dr. Chester Britt, chair of the Iowa State Department of Sociology

Britt had recently begun his second year serving as department chair of sociology when he experienced a severe reaction to a wasp sting while jogging on Aug. 16.

He died Tuesday at the Israel Hospice House in Ames, devastating the people who had gotten to know him at Iowa State.

“We are saddened by the tragic loss of Dr. Britt," said Wendy Wintersteen, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. "All of us were looking forward to working with Chet far into the future as a colleague. It’s shocking to comprehend that Iowa State has lost such a dedicated leader.”

Britt was passionate about his work, and was a distinguished scholar in his field of study. He wrote various published journal articles regarding his research in the sociology and criminology fields and spent time as the editor of "Justice Quarterly," according to the department's website. 

Previous to his role as department chair of sociology at Iowa State, Britt held administrative positions as dean of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Northeastern University and chair of the department of criminal justice and criminology at Arizona State University, and various academic positions at Pennsylvania State University and the University of Illinois. 

“Chet took over as department chair when I stepped down from the position,” said Paul Lasley, professor of sociology and anthropology. “On numerous occasions, Chet told me how much he loved being at Iowa State and how much he enjoyed being chair of the department that has such a talented faculty and staff.”

“He was one of those individuals where if he wasn’t at a meeting, he was in his office," said George Weston, president of Graduate Students in Sociology.  "Always working and always finding ways to improve the program.

"He was very supportive of our organization and the graduate students, and was able to get along with so many people. He fit in very quickly, even just within the year that he was here.”

Britt was Weston’s mentor while he went through the process of becoming the president of the student organization while pursuing his Ph.D. in April.

“He was having such a positive impact on the department of sociology, even in his short tenure as chair," said Beate Schmittmann, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. He will most certainly be missed, and I extend my heartfelt condolences to Chet’s family, friends and peers."

The sociology department, along with Britt’s family, has created a memorial fund called the Chet Britt Memorial Fund to create scholarships in criminology to honor Britt’s career and passion for helping underrepresented groups gain access to higher education, Lasley said.

“This has been a very difficult time for the Iowa State community," said ISU President Steven Leath. "The news of Chester Britt is shocking and tragic. I ask that while you hold Chester’s family and friends in your thoughts and prayers that you also reach out to comfort and care for each other.”

Britt is survived by his wife, Kelly Champion, and their children René and Dana Gustafson and Lucas and Aly Britt.

A memorial service for Britt will be held Saturday, Sept. 3, at Ames United Church of Christ, with a reception following in the Campanile Room of the Memorial Union.

(1) comment

Jermaine Smith

His death is really big shocking news for all. He was a really great man and very compassionate and supportive of the organization. And he just loved his essay service work like petitions. May God rest his soul in peace.

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