University of Delaware
Office of Public Relations
The Messenger
Vol. 5, No. 1/1995
Alison Award recognizes outstanding faculty contributions

     I'm convinced that, for most of us, our scholarly work is
relevant for a very short period of time. If we can remain a
footnote, we're doing well. We live on through our students.
That's how we pass on our legacy." Such is the philosophy of
Frank R. Scarpitti of Newark, Del., professor of sociology and
former chairperson of the department, who received the
University's prestigious Francis Alison Award during this fall's
New Student Convocation.
     The $6,000 Alison Award was established by the University's
Board of Trustees in 1978 to recognize the scholarship,
professional achievements and dedication of the UD faculty.
     Scarpitti is a criminologist whose eclectic research has
ranged from mental illness to juvenile delinquency to illegal
disposal of hazardous waste. His research has had practical
implications for several groups-from the families of
schizophrenics to those fighting illegal landfills.
     He says the part of his career in which he has been most
effective is "working with graduate students, giving them
professional advice or showing them the best way to get
     Even during his 16 years as department chair, Scarpitti
always taught and worked closely with graduate students.
Additionally, his undergraduate classes in social problems and
criminology have attracted large numbers of students.
     "With graduate students, I have always seen one of my roles
to be that of fostering their careers," he said. Scarpitti has co-
authored papers and books with at least a dozen students.
     "It provides an opportunity for them to learn some
techniques and helps them accomplish what they must do when they
get their first job," he said. "If I can introduce them to
editors and help launch their careers, it's very rewarding. It's
what two of my graduate teachers did for me, and how can you
thank someone for something like that? Simply by doing it
yourself for others."
     In his three terms as chairperson of the Department of
Sociology, Scarpitti has seen many changes. He has seen a
department of eight grow to include 26 full-time faculty. He has
seen a doctoral program, launched in 1969, graduate many
successful students, all gainfully employed.
     And, he has published 10 books and more than 50 articles and
chapters that address a variety of issues related to social
problems and criminal behavior.
     Early in his career, Scarpitti was one of the researchers in
a landmark study on the value of treating mentally ill patients
in a community rather than an institutionalized setting. The
study, conducted in the early 1960s at the Psychiatric Institute
and Hospital at Ohio State University, became the backbone of a
wide-sweeping movement to deinstitutionalize certain types of
mentally ill patients and became the model for many community
mental health reforms throughout the country.
     The book that grew out of that research, Schizophrenics in
the Community: An Experimental Study in the Prevention of
Hospitalization with Simon Sinitz and Benjamin Pasamanick, won
the American Psychiatric Association Hofheimer Prize for Research
in 1967.
     While working as an assistant professor of sociology at
Rutgers University from 1963-1967, Scarpitti turned his research
focus to juvenile delinquency. He studied the effectiveness of
the then-innovative idea of guided group interaction as a way of
changing the behavior of juvenile delinquents. His study found
the approach reasonably effective in curtailing repeated
delinquent behavior.
     In the early 1980s, his research into the illegal disposal
of toxic waste resulted in the controversial book, Poisoning for
Profit, about the role of organized crime in the trash disposal
business. The book traced the role of organized crime in the
traditional garbage business and its ventures into the relatively
new business of toxic waste disposal.
     The book became an important source book and guide for
grassroots groups and law enforcement agencies fighting toxic
waste issues across the country.
     Currently, Scarpitti works with the UD Center for Drug and
Alcohol Studies, looking at the effectiveness of therapeutic drug
treatments, trying to analyze why the process is effective and
the type of person for whom it works best.
     Scarpitti says he is honored, gratified and a little
embarrassed to be given the Alison Award.
     "This is an award from my peers, the people who know me
best, and it's really quite rewarding. But, I keep seeing people
on campus and thinking 'Gee, he or she should have gotten this
award,'" Scarpitti said. "It's very humbling."
     Other honors he has gathered over the course of his career
include being elected president of the American Society of
Criminology in 1981, and the Environmental Justice Award from the
Citizens Clearing House for Hazardous Wastes in 1989.
     Scarpitti came to Delaware in 1967, making what he says was
"the right move for the wrong reason-a higher salary."
     Since then, although he has had many offers to go elsewhere,
he has stayed out of a sense of contentment with the University
and the surrounding community.
     "Any time you get 'pulled' somewhere else, you should also
have the 'push' to want to leave where you are. I've never had
the 'push.''' he said.
     In his spare time, Scarpitti is an aficionado of Grade B
Western movies, lecturing on the genre and attending an
occasional film festival that allows him to see as many as 19
movies in only a few days.
                                                -Beth Thomas